Cargo and electric bicycles have been excluded from transport Minister Eamon Ryan’s almost doubling of the electric vehicle funding to €100m.
Under Irish law bicycles are vehicles, but successive Governments have excluded cargo and electric bicycles from grants, incentives and targets for electric vehicles.
A growing number of countries have moved to provide cargo or electric grants as part of their climate action plan, it is unclear why Minister Ryan — a founding member of the Dublin Cycling Campaign — has been slow to put in place similar incentives.
The grants in other countries range from scrappage schemes aimed at getting older cars off the road to simple grants — ranging from €100s to €1,000s. In some countries, the incentives are targeted at low-income households and others are open to all.
It came as a surprise to a number of sources that Ryan did not move to change this as part of the Government’s recently announced Budget 2022. Some think this will happen next year, but his departments are keeping tight-lipped.
IrishCycle.com asked the Department of Transport a set of questions on the issues and put this in the context of electric cars getting highlighted at COP26 and transport journalists and activists saying in the last week that cycling was so-far not getting a showing once again.
The European Cyclist’s Federation and local campaigners have also called on urgent action to give priority to cycling in climate plans. However, the Government’s new Climate Action Plan announced last week also does not contain clear action on electric bicycle grants.
While in some other countries, climate plans or bills have made progress on grants — the Irish Climate Action Plan only has an action to “enable” electric scooters and bikes.
To “enable” seems to be a reference to the undefined claim from his Department that electric-assisted bicycles need further legal backing despite being classified as legal under the Finance Acts and the transcribing of EU Directive on vehicle types.
Asked has the Department looked at expanding the electric vehicles grants to include electric bicycles and cargo bicycles, and, if not, why not, a spokesperson for the Department of Transport said: “The use of e-bikes, including e-cargo bikes, is proving to be an increasingly popular method of travel, whether for commuting or leisure purposes and is encouraging more people to choose to cycle.”
She added: “The existing Cycle to Work scheme, operated by the Department of Finance, was expanded to include electric bikes and e-cargo bikes.”
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IrishCycle.com asked again about electric bicycles, outlining how grants are different from the Cycle to Work scheme, which does not apply to and cannot be expanded to many people including retirees, businesses. homemakers, carers, teenagers school goers etc.
Department of Transport replied: “Any changes to the electric grants system would need to be considered in the overall policy and budgetary context.”
A further question, asked on November 4, directed at Minister Ryan to ask why he is expanding the electric vehicle grant now but there seems to be no urgency in allowing electric bicycle buyers to tap into that source of funding.
This went unanswered up to the publication of this article.
The Department of Environment and Climate, which is also under Minister Ryan, was also asked for comment on electric bicycle grants. A spokesperson said: “This is a matter for the Department of Transport and we would suggest you redirect your query to them.”