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Decision on E-scooter regulations due shortly, as minister says electric scooter users should have a driving licence

Shane Ross has asked the RSA to research scooter regulations in other countries.

Image: DPA/PA Images

PRESSURE IS MOUNTING on the government to regulate the uses of E-scooters, with parties such as Fianna Fáil, the Green Party and even a TD within Fine Gael calling for urgent action. 

Transport Minister Shane Ross said he has ordered the Road Safety Authority (RSA) to carry out research into how other EU member States regulate their use, stating that he would not take any steps until the study recommended best practice.

Electric scooters exist in a legal grey area in Ireland – but there have been calls to legalise the popular transport option.

With an increased use of the E-scooters and with US companies in the field such as Lime plotting some kind of operations in Ireland, there have been calls for legal clarity.  

Current law

Ross clarified the current legal situation with electric scooters in the Dáil, stating that the Road Traffic Act 1961 defines a mechanically propelled vehicle as a vehicle intended or adapted for propulsion by mechanical means, including a bicycle or tricycle with an attachment for propelling it by mechanical power, whether or not the attachment is being used.

It also includes a vehicle the means of propulsion of which is electrical, or partly electrical and partly mechanical, he added.

“E-scooters and powered skateboards fall into this category and are therefore considered to be mechanically propelled vehicles. Any users of such vehicles in a public place, as defined in the Road Traffic Act 1961, must have insurance, road tax and a driving licence,” said the minister. 

He added that penalties under road traffic laws for using such a vehicle include fixed charge notices, penalty points, fines and possible seizure of the vehicle.

However, while stating this, he added that currently it is not possible to tax or insure e-scooters or electric skateboards.

Not suitable for use in a public place

Therefore, “they are not considered suitable for use in a public place,” said Ross.

Going into more detail about the request to the RSA, the minister said he is “keen to understand the road safety implications of the use of such vehicles on public roads, especially when interacting with other vehicles”.

“I will make a decision on whether to amend existing legislation when I have received the outcome of the RSA’s research and not before then. I will need to be satisfied that permitting such vehicles on our roads will not give rise to safety concerns, both for the users themselves and for all other road users including cyclists, pedestrians and motorists or otherwise adversely impact on other users of our roads and streets, whether on foot, cycle, MPV or public transport,” he added. 

While the minister did not give a timeline for when the RSA research will be completed, Ross said as it is a matter of road safety and it is important the government gets it right.

“I will not set an exact date but I do regard this as a matter of great importance because of the extraordinary surge in the number of these vehicles we see on our pavements, footpaths and roads.

‘Can’t be tolerated for very long’

“It is not something which can be tolerated for very long. Enforcement is not up to me but I see the difficulties with having unregulated vehicles on our roads. We will have to make a decision as soon as possible. I emphasise the safety issue,” he added.

We will make a decision on this issue very quickly. 

Fianna Fáil’s Robert Troy is attempting to force the hand of the government by introducing a Bill to regulate the use of electric scooters.

Troy said the use of e-scooters is rising rapidly because they are efficient, mobile and low-cost vehicles.

“People are responding favourably to them,” he said, adding “they are also hugely energy efficient”.

Fine Gael’s Noel Rock also called on the minister to act speedily on the issue, stating that peoples scooters are being impounded due to the lack of clarity in law. 

He said he warned the minister in the Oireachtas Transport Committee about such incidents happening, adding that they are no playing catch-up.

Rock said scooters are “green” and “environmentally-friendly”.

“I am at a loss as to why the department has been stonewalling on this issue,” he said, adding that the department, instead of being proactive last year on the matter, are now being reactive. 

Troy also accused the transport department of “reacting to a trend”, adding “we are not asking the minister to reinvent the wheel. We are just asking him to introduce similar regulation to ensure that e-scooters can be used in a safe manner in this country”.

Ross said he understood the deputy’s impatience, but denied the department has been slow stating the “explosion in the use of e-scooters has been pretty sudden”.

The minister added that not every country views e-scooters favourably. 

Barcelona has actually banned e-scooters, while Paris and Berlin have imposed restrictions because of safety concerns as well as difficulties due to the interaction of e-scooters with other forms of traffic, said the minister

“It is not quite as simple as it may appear on the surface in terms of regulating their use. The primary concern behind the survey and examination that is going on is safety. 

“My position is that we should wait and see what the research shows before making a decision,” said Ross. 

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