One Step Closer To E-Scooter Legalisation
We have written previously on the history of electric scooter legislation and how and when it might be introduced in Ireland. Electric scooters are currently not legislated for use under the Road And Traffic Act (you can check out our previous articles on this topic). However, there has been a lot of progress over the last few months with Deputy Eamon Ryan keen to continue the trend of reducing the number of vehicles on the roads with alternative methods of transport such as bikes and e-scooters. On the 30th of June 2021, the Joint Committee on Transport and Communications held a debate on the “General Scheme of the Road Traffic (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2019: Minister for Transport”. The bill includes a broad range of proposed legislative amendments for the transport sector with electric scooters being mentioned over 30 times throughout the course of the debate. We’re going to take a look here as to what was discussed at the debate with regards to electric scooters.
The legal definition of electric scooters and what category of transport they fall into has been iterated many times over the past year. At first it was Personal Electric Vehicles (PEV), secondly Personal Light Weight Vehicles (PLEV) and currently stands as Powered Personal Transporters (PPT). PPT is proposed as a new class of vehicles that captures e-scooters, hoverboards, Segways and other vehicles which sit outside the current legislative classification for road worthy vehicles. The reason this new category has been proposed, rather than specifically calling it "e-scooter legislation", is to have a category that captures the progress of technology in transportation devices over the coming years. Imagine what an electric scooter will be in 20 years, whatever it will be will be classified as a PPT and the legislation won't have to be changed to regulate them. The naming of these categories may change depending on how this bill progresses but the idea of future proofing the legislation with a “catch all” category will likely remain a key part of the bill.
No license or insurance
PPT’s will not be licensed vehicles. E-scooters will operate closer to the rules that cyclists currently have. Persons over the age of 16 will be allowed to use PPT’s in public places. Speed limits will be restricted to around the 25km mark and with restrictions on motor wattage output. Speed limits will be lowered in pedestrianised areas to allow for safe use around pedestrians. As e-scooters are not licensed vehicles it is noted that helmets will be optional. This is more directed towards public ride sharing e-scooters which will likely be launched after the changes to legislation. Comparisons have been made in the debate to Dublin's current shared cycle scheme and electric scooters fleets, and that the rules around protective equipment should be similar. At LOCO we promote the use of helmets and other PPE when using an electric scooter. You only get one head so protect it!
Over the past year most media attention has acknowledged the growing popularity of electric scooters but has put a negative spin on their use in public. In contrast to the media, the debate had a positive outlook on electric scooters and discussions were centred around the health and societal benefits they bring. The Deputy of Transport Mr Eamonn Ryan notes that any form of transport that reduces the amount of congestion in our cities and gets people physically active in their commutes is in overall a huge benefit to society. He says that rather than putting strict mandates on the use of electric scooters, focus should be on making roads safer and on encouraging, supporting and incentivising the use of helmets, but not making them mandatory. There may be conflicting opinions on the topic of the mandatory use of helmets but overall looking to make roads less about cars and more friendly to cyclists and e-scooter users is a progressive initiative we can stand behind.
Timelines for introduction of legislation
The debate hints at the bill being submitted to the Oireachtas in early or mid-September and to get through both Houses after a couple of months. This may mean e-scooters will be legal for use in public places by next spring or early summer. Although we have seen many bills proposed over the past two years, this is the first time that a bill has been given a timeline to be brought forward to the Oireachtas by a minister for transport. These are exciting developments and we look forward to seeing how this progresses in the coming months.
It seems that we are taking real steps towards the legalisation of electric scooters on our roads in Ireland. There are thousands of commuters who depend on electric scooters as their main form of transport. We have heard countless stories on how e-scooters have helped people to drastically cut down their commute times. Many people can’t rely on the current public transport system as it may not operate at the hours they go or return from work and have to use an electric scooter. Others have bus routes that bring them unnecessarily through the city and add considerable time to their commute, rather than being able to cut across town on their e-scooters. Legislation will mean that these benefits will continue but with added infrastructure, education and funding for electric scooters by the government.
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