Warning over reckless behaviour on e-scooters as city reopens

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Concern has been expressed over the reckless behaviour of some e-scooter users, including carrying multiple passengers in busy areas.

ith schools reopened and traffic volumes now approaching pre-Covid levels, there have been recent reports of e-scooters being used irresponsibly on roads and footpaths across the city.

Measures contained in promised new legislation, which is expected to be progressed “as quickly as possible”, will tackle the misuse of e-scooters in public places, the Department of Transport has confirmed.

The pandemic led to a huge spike in sales of e-scooters and electric bikes as commuters scrambled for alternative ways to get around the city.

As the law stands, the use of e-scooters in public places is illegal. The Road Traffic and Roads Bill 2021 will contain measures to legalise and regulate their use. It will create a new vehicle category, known as Powered Personal Transporters (PPTs).

The proposed legislation will see the introduction of regulations setting out the safe use of e-scooters, the technical standards that must be met and conditions around their use or misuse.

There is currently some ambiguity around the definition of e-bikes in Irish law. The Bill intends to clarify this by dividing them – in line with international standards – into two classes.

E-bikes with lighter motors will be treated in the same way as bicycles, while more powerful ones will be classed as mechanically propelled vehicles, similar to a small moped.

It is not proposed that e-scooters will require users to obtain road tax, insurance or driving licences.

A spokesperson for the Department of Transport said: “The timeline for the Road Traffic Bill depends on several factors, including passage through the Oireachtas. The availability of Oireachtas time, and length of debates on the Bill, will dictate the timeline. However, the intention is to progress legislation as quickly as possible.”

When passed, the legislation is expected to result in a sharp increase in the number of operators entering the e-scooter rental market, as has been the experience in other countries.

According to the garda press office, e-scooters and powered skateboards are considered to be mechanically propelled vehicles and it is “legally irrelevant” whether or not they need a push-start.

As such, under the Road Traffic Act 1961, users are required to have insurance, road tax and a driving licence if they are operated in a public place.

“As it is currently not possible to tax or insure e-scooters or electric skateboards, they are not considered suitable for use in a public place,” a garda spokesperson said. “There is no anomaly within the law.”

In a report commissioned by the Road Safety Authority in 2019, a number of recommendations were made on the proposed regulation of e-scooters.

These include restricting their use on high-speed roads; the setting of a 6km/h speed limit, if permitted on footpaths; minimum age restrictions; training and education; and the promotion of the use of safety equipment, such as helmets.

Councillor Claire Byrne (GP) said e-scooters were welcome in terms of encouraging a sustainable mix of transport in the city. However, she believes regulation is required to deal with irresponsible behaviour, such the carrying of multiple passengers, including children, on e-scooters.

“They need to be used in a way that is respectful of the rules of the road and respectful of other road users,” she told Independent.ie.

She added that while sharing segregated cycle lanes between bikes and e-scooters “makes sense”, infrastructure needs to be provided “to make it safe”.

“For instance, this might mean wider cycle lanes in the future,” she said. “We must look at removing road space away from cars if we want to encourage a modal shift towards sustainable and active travel.”