— Draft legislation as written means many e-scooters and some e-cargo bicycles would have further requirements.
Scooters limited to 25km/h to be allowed in cycle lanes and cycle paths, according to draft legislation published by the Government yesterday.
The Road Traffic and Roads Bill 2021 is at a draft stage of legislation before it becomes law when it will become an Act. It will be subject to amendment in the Dáil and Seanad.
The bill, which covers a wide range of issues from autonomous cars to variable motorway road signs, includes a new class of vehicles that will effectively legalise the use of electric scooters and similar devices on public roads under the term “powered personal transporters”.
This requires amendment to a large number of Road Traffic Acts — consolidation of road traffic law has been promised for years but keeps getting put off. In some cases the devices will be treated like motor vehicles and in other cases like electric bicycles — for example, there will be motorist-like rules on the use of mobile phones but mainly electric bicycle rules for speed and motor power.
The powered personal transporters will be legally limited to 25km/h. The draft legislation also outlines that where a special 20km/h speed limit is used, users will be legally obliged to obey that limit.
However, it’s unclear what enforcement will be practical. In the Netherlands, large mopeds (confusedly known as scooters) were allowed on cycle paths once they were limited to 25km/h, however, speed limiters were often tampered with. This has resulted in Amsterdam removing the mopeds from central cycle paths and the city of Utrecht is currently in the process of implementing the same rules.
But as some Dutch cities are working to remove the problematic mopeds from cycle paths, new challenges are emerging around electric bicycles with the 25km/h limit tampered with, especially with some brands of bicycles where it is known that it is easy to override the speed restriction.
Local authorities in Ireland will not be able to exclude electric scooters from cycle tracks but they will be able to define what users are allowed to use cycleways, which are routes away from roads such as greenways.
The Road Traffic and Roads Bill 2021 also states that powered personal transporters are “designed and constructed for the carriage of a single person, but not designed or constructed for a person with restricted mobility or for the carriage of goods”.
The reference to “not designed or constructed for a person with restricted mobility” is understood to be an attempt to differentiate the definition of powered personal transporters from devices for people with mobility issues, which are legally different. But this may pose issues as people with different levels of mobility already use electric scooters which are seen by some as a cheaper alternative to devices made especially for people with restricted mobility.
The legal definition also put a maximum weight of 55 kilograms without the user, a maximum design speed of no less than 6km/h and no greater than 25km/h, and an electric motor with a maximum continuous rated power less than or equal to 0.25 kilowatts.
The motor power output of “less than or equal to 0.25 kilowatts”, if left unchanged, means that many popular electric scooters will remain not legal to use on public roads. A similar requirement for electric bicycles means some electric bicycles, including larger cargo bikes, will remain not legal in public in Ireland.
The draft legislation outlines how it will be an offence to supply a scooter to a person under 16 years old, but — as currently written — the draft legislation does not clearly outline any mechanism of on-street enforcement or make it an offence for an under 16-year-old to use electric scooters.
The Department of Transport said that the legislation also aims to strengthen the law to deal with dangerous and antisocial off-road use of scramblers, quads and other similar vehicles.
A Department press release said that it will also include legal support for the dynamic traffic signs on the M50, legislation to support more rapid implementation of BusConnects, amendments to the records of vehicles and drivers, and the setting up of a shared database of insured drivers aimed to combat uninsured driving.
In a statement, transport Minister Eamon Ryan said: “We committed in the Programme for Government to resolving legal barriers to the use of e-scooters, as well as e-bikes, and this Bill will deliver on both of those commitments.”
“The BusConnects proposals in the Bill will contribute to the same goal by underpinning our investment in a much-improved public transport network,” he said.
Minister Ryan added: “In addition, I am currently working on a number of other measures to address in amendments to the Bill during its passage, in particular, to facilitate the provision of active travel infrastructure.”
Minister of State, Hildegarde Naughton, said: “The publication of this Bill is a significant step on the way to improving safety on our roads. After a long period when road deaths were declining, we have reached a point where it is becoming harder to make an impact.”
She added that the bill would “help us advance towards our ambitious shared EU Vision Zero of eliminating deaths and serious injuries on our roads by 2050.”
While one can see a road safety logic in limiting the top speed of e-scooters (kick-scooters) to 25 km/h when used in/on a cycle track/path due to the momentum factor why is the same logic not applied to other infrastructure where bike users are to be found, namely bus lanes where there is no vehicle-specific speed limit set for buses, coaches and taxis that are permitted users of the lanes.
I was close/fast overtaken recently in a bus lane by a Tesla operated as a taxi. The momentum in a speeding taxi, bus or coach is enormous in comparison to a lowly e-scooter.
What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.