Transport minister questioned on powerful electric bicycles

Electrical assisted bicycles are currently restricted to 25km/h before the motor stops helping the user from going faster, but it seems there is lobbying for change in Ireland.

A growing number of European and other bicycle manufacturers are creating fast electric bicycles which can reach speeds of up to 40km/h with  little effort. 

A parliamentary question asked by Clare Daly TD (Dublin North, United Left) was told that minister has no current plan to increase the speed allowed. It is unclear who Daly was asking the question for.

Deputy Daly asked: “To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he has considered increasing the speed limits for electric pedelecs from 15 mph (25 km/h) and increasing the engine size to above 250 watts in view of the fact that the current limits were set in 1978.”

In reply, the minister for transport, Paschal Donohoe (Dublin Central, Fine Gael), wrote: “I have no proposals at this time for amending legislation in relation to pedelecs (electrically assisted bicycles). I will however keep the matter under review.”

Electric bicycles can exceed 25 km/h if the user is pedaling hard, but it’s at that speed that the electric assistance should start to cut out. If the electric assistance continues or if the electric motor operates without the user peddling, the electric bicycle is then considered a normal mechanically propelled vehicle — which requires a licence to use, and both vehicle registration and motor tax to operate on a public road. This law is followed nearly identically across the EU Member States.

There is no “grey area” in the law, electrical bicycles which are rated over the allowed legal limits are not viewed as bicycles but should be treated as classes of electric scooters or mopeds.

In the Netherlands, the bicycle industry is lobbying the Dutch government to row back on their plans to treat faster electric bicycles as mopeds by 2017, which would require the use of motorcycle helmets. The industry argues that most fast electric bicycles won’t reach Dutch moped max speeds of 45km/h and so are not directly comparable to mopeds.

Bicycle industry news publications in recent years have reported on conflicting lobbying at EU level — with representatives of cycling and the bike industry, arguing different ways. One side says that that more electric cycles will endanger the safety of “conventional cyclists” and want the current limits to remain in place. While the other side have argued that faster electric bicycles would make longer distance commutes more attractive by bicycle and that would have environmental and congestion tackling benefits.

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