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Fine Gael TD brands Shane Ross a ‘waste of time’ over electric scooters

Alan Farrell is set to propose a bill to legislate electric scooters and electric bikes on Irish roads.

Image: PA Images

A BACKBENCH TD has criticised former transport minister Shane Ross for being a “waste of time” over his inaction on legalising electric scooters and electric bikes.

Alan Farrell accused Ross of showing “disdain” and “disinterest” in introducing legislation to regulate the use of the devices on Irish roads.

The Fine Gael TD is set to propose a new bill in the coming weeks to legalise the widespread use of e-scooters and e-bikes by bringing them in line with laws that apply to pedal bikes.

The private member’s Personal Light Electric Vehicle Bill, part of the Road Traffic Act, seeks to amend road traffic legislation to permit e-scooters and e-bikes as bicycles so that they would be exempt from insurance. Therefore, they could be used on public roads and cycle lanes.

At present, e-scooters and e-bikes are currently not regulated in Ireland. There is no specific law covering them.

They are considered to be mechanically-propelled vehicles, which means that if they are used in public places users must hold a licence and insurance.

Farrell said Mr Ross had shown “no political will” to rectify the grey area of their use during his time in office, despite the matter being on the department’s radar for three years.

“Minister Ross was a waste of time, and I mean absolute disrespect to him, in relation to the way in which he treated this project,” he said.

He added that Ross had treated e-scooters with “disdain and disinterest”.

“I think he put it back a number of years,” he said.

Ross last month published a tell-all book, titled In Bed with the Blueshirts, about his almost four years as a Cabinet minister.

It has drawn sharp criticism from Fine Gael ministers and TDs who have accused him of breaking Cabinet confidentiality.

Farrell argued e-scooters and e-bikes are now an “integral” part of the Irish transport system, describing them as a very workable, environmentally-friendly means of transport.

“Let’s be honest, they can be quite fun too,” he added.

The Dublin Fingal representative said he has a e-scooter but does not use it because of the ambiguous laws.

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“I’m a 43-year-old parliamentarian and I have an electric scooter, and I don’t use it because I don’t want to be a parliamentarian who gets nicked on an illegal device,” he said.

“I would like to be able to jump on my electric scooter and scoot down the hill from my home, and get on the Dart, for example, and hop off at Pearse Street and zoom up to Leinster House three times a week. I would love not to use my car.”

Farrell added that under the Government’s current Covid-19 restrictions, it would make even more sense for people not to have to worry about getting public transport and to be able to get from A to B on an e-scooter.

Legislating for the use of e-scooters and e-bikes is one of the commitments in the Programme for Government as part of the coalition government’s bid to reduce carbon emissions.

Farrell said he believes the bill could be passed through the Houses of the Oireachtas by early next year. But he understands there are safety concerns associated with the devices and he has sought to address those concerns in the bill.

Earlier this month, the Road Safety Authority called on parents not to buy e-scooters for their children this Christmas, warning that in the hands of children they pose a high risk given they can travel at considerable speed.

The proposed bill would impose an upper speed limit of 25 kmph, an upper power limit of 250 watts, and a minimum age of 16 years.

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