On March 4th, there was a substantial change in the legalization of e-scooters. That’s because the Road Traffic (Amendment) (Personal Light Electric Vehicles) Bill 2021 was submitted. This is a bill intended to be debated at Dail to regulate the use of personal electric vehicles, including e-scooters, and make some amendments to make them more legal. It also means we’ll get a first glance at the laws and regulations the Government wants to introduce. Here is a piece we wrote on the law as it currently stands.
Road Traffic (Amendment) (Personal Light Electric Vehicles) Bill 2021’s Scope
Over the past several years, our primary focus has been e-scooters. However, there are numerous personal vehicles that are electrically powered. This bill covers e-bikes, e-scooters, and all other similar small vehicles. These can be electric unicycles, electric skateboards, and the like.
All of these vehicles required legal clarification and thanks to the Road Traffic (Amendment) (Personal Light Electric Vehicles) Bill 2021, it is finally happening. Most people who have owned these gadgets in the past several years have been wondering what approach the government would take. The biggest fear was over-regulation, which would result in public hesitation from shifting to this modern, eco-friendly way of navigating in our cities. However, after going through the proposed bill, things don’t appear to be too bad as feared. That being said, here are the most important points we noticed:
Cars or Bikes? Defining E-Bikes and E-Scooters
During my first read, I completely missed some of the most important points, literally included in the Bill’s definition. Both electrically powered pedal cycles or e-scooters and e-bikes are considered bicycles. This is a vital part of the definitions.
Over the past several years, we have conversed with numerous people who have been stopped by the Gardai while riding an e-scooter. Most of their experiences ended up with fines, penalty points, days in courts, and in some cases, losing driving licenses. The primary reason is that e-scooters fit in the ‘mechanically propelled vehicle’ definition, basically classifying them as a traditional car. If you were caught riding an e-scooter, it was treated the same as driving a conventional car without insurance.
According to the Road Traffic (Amendment) (Personal Light Electric Vehicles), Bill 2021, e-scooters, e-bikes, and other personal light electric vehicles should be classified as bicycles. With that being said, let us delve into detail.
The Proposed Law
Just a heads up, we are going to focus more on the e-scooter side of the story in this segment. By looking at e-scooters, there is nothing too surprising in the bill:
- Maximum Speeds
I once had the chance to test Lime scooters during a trip to Germany. They were impressive, but their speed was a bit lacking. This is because the government imposed a 20KMPh speed limit on all e-scooters. As a person who’s used to scooters with a 25 Kmph, this was a noticeable drop. Ideally, cyclists were either flying past me or stuck behind me due to the slow speed. That difference in speed makes a substantial difference. However, the new amendment adopts a 25 Kmph for all personal light electric vehicles including e-scooters.
According to the bill, scooters should feature a device that limits the speed of the gadget. However, software limits as assumed acceptable.
- Ban on Cruise Control
The Road Traffic (Amendment) (Personal Light Electric Vehicles) Bill 2021 makes a specific reference on how throttle functions on the e-scooter. Simply put, these PLEVs should feature a throttle that, when released, the power is set to 0.
- The Motor
According to the Bill, e-scooters should only have one electric motor and no additional mechanical one. Also, the electric motor shouldn’t go beyond 250 watts. This makes the popular Xiaomi m365 legal, but not the also popular Ninebot Max G30.
- The Rider
Anyone can ride on the Irish roads, and this is an area where the bill will differentiate between e-scooters and traditional bikes. First and foremost, e-scooters should be designed to only carry one individual. However, the bill currently does not say what happens if a person is caught carrying someone else, which is quite rampant.
Second, in order to ride an e-scooter in a public place, you need to be at least 16 years old. This is understandable, but it might cause some chaos, given e-scooters were a popular Christmas gift last year.
Proposed Legal Changes in Ireland
The weird thing about electric bikes is that they have been effectively just accepted onto Ireland roads without any question. However, with the new proposed Bill, more problems have risen up. Proposed laws in regards to e-bikes include:
- Speed Limits
Electric bikes will not have a speed limit per se. That’s because people can easily cycle beyond 25 Kmph. However, the proposed bill doesn’t state the e-bike motor should only go up to 25 Kmph.
- Motor Limits
The Bosch Performance CX is perhaps the most popular motor on the market when it comes to e-bikes. This motor supports up to 250 watts and so, it’s considered legal in regards to the proposed motor limits for electronic bikes. However, there are numerous other motors that go beyond this power range.
Since the laws have taken so long to implement, there’s an extremely huge number of e-scooters and e-bikes that exceed the proposed restrictions. As such, it is advisable to check your ratings and check how your PLEV measure’s up.
The Road Traffic (Amendment) (Personal Light Electric Vehicles) Bill 2021 does not impose many other limitations. However, there are a few other considerations electric scooters, electric bikes, and other PLEV users need to keep in mind. First, the rider should be at least 16 years old, and using a phone while riding is not allowed. Other than that, every other law is the same as riding a conventional bike. For us, this is an extremely good start. The only issue is situations where individuals have already spent money on e-scooters, e-bikes and other personal light electric vehicles that don’t conform with speed or motor limits. Also, the consequences of being caught while violating these laws are yet to be known.
The Road Traffic (Amendment) (Personal Light Electric Vehicles) Bill 2021 is fresh in the DIal, meaning we will be looking at about 4 months before it becomes a law. This is important to note as e-scooters are still considered illegal and you can still be pulled over, be fined, be taken to court, lose your license and get penalty points.
As we move towards more modern means of navigating around cities, you can easily track the progress of the Road Traffic (Amendment) (Personal Light Electric Vehicles) Bill 2021 online. By keeping yourself informed, you will ensure you are on the right side of the law and make PLEV investments that are within the law requirements in the future.