— “Electric bikes have opened cycling to a whole range of people,” says Senator.
Faster electric bicycles — known as speed-pedelecs — will be treated as light mopeds under new Irish law next year. This includes following the requirements around insurance and licensing.
The motor limit for normal ‘pedelecs’, or pedal-assist electric bicycles, is 25 km/h, after that the motor cuts off and stops helping. These lower-powered pedelecs are and will still be treated as normal bicycles in the eyes of the law.
However, with speed-pedelecs, the motor cutout ranges from somewhere between 35km/h to 45 km/h depending on the bike. The law will classify these higher-power bikes as light mopeds and require users to obey all the laws motorcycle users do.
The clarity in the law will be contained in the long-awaited Road Traffic and Roads Bill 2021, which is expected to pass the Seanad this year and be signed into law next year.
There will be a three-month waiting time before the elements of the law covering electric scooters will come into effect, but the bicycle and related measures will be in effect once the law is signed.
In a Seanad debate on the issue last month, Eamon Ryan said: “We will continue to treat this kind of e-bike [where the motor cuts out at 25km/h] in the same way as an ordinary pedal bicycle, and the rules of the road for bicycles will apply accordingly. This type of e-bike will not require registration, taxation, or licensing.”
“High-powered e-bikes, which are those that can be used without pedalling or those that can reach speeds in excess of 25 km/h, will be treated in the same way as light mopeds and therefore will need to be registered, taxed and insured, and used only by an appropriately licensed driver.”
Minister Ryan said that ebikes are “capable of speeds up to 100 km/h in some cases”, but this is not the case for speed-pedelecs in Europe which are capped at 45km/h and not designed for much faster speeds.
There was some confusion in the debate about electric bicycles cutting out at 25km/h — this is not the case. The limit is not a speed limit but the speed at which the motor on the bicycle should stop helping.
Electric bikes extend the range of bicycles says Senator
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In the same debate, Senator Lynn Boylan (Sinn Fein) outlined how she has personal experience with how electric bicycles extend the distance in which it is possible to cycle.
Senator Boylan said: “We all agree there needs to be a modal shift and every car we can take off the road is to the benefit of everyone. We have to make it the case that no one is forced to have a car. The current situation in Ireland is that there is forced car ownership; people have no other choice, particularly households in rural areas with two-car ownership that might be able to reduce to one car. It is important that we put in place anything that helps people who want to give up their car.”
“I do not see electric bikes as cheating, although the Senator is the second man I have heard say that in recent weeks. I say that because I am somebody who has recently got an electric bike. I am not a cyclist or a very confident cyclist, and I live 12 km out. Cycling is not something I would normally do for exercise and I much prefer to run. However, I did try cycling on the regular bike and it is just that little bit too far as it is uphill,” she said.
“Having the electric bike now, I am using it far more, first, coming into work every day because even if I am late leaving, I am getting home that bit quicker but, equally, I am able to use it for doing those other trips. We are all trying to get people out of their cars to do those short trips, such as going to do the weekly shop, where they normally would have needed a car.”
She added: “Again, with cycling, the weight was a bit too much, but with the electric bike, it is possible to do that. Electric bikes have opened cycling to a whole range of people, and I include myself in that, because it is much more accessible. Again, they are gentler on the body and people who are older and who might not physically be able to cycle a manual bike are able to cycle electric bikes.”