Skip to main content
Normal View

Joint Committee on Transport and Communications debate -
Wednesday, 19 Jan 2022

Road Traffic and Roads Bill 2021, and Disability and Transport: Discussion

No apologies have been received.

The purpose of this meeting is to discuss the Road Traffic and Roads Bill 2021, in particular its impact on people with disabilities in the transport sector. I apologise to the witnesses for the delay in commencing the meeting and thank them for their forbearance. On behalf of the committee, I welcome Mr. John Fulham from the Irish Wheelchair Association, IWA; Mr. Tim O'Mahony, CEO, and Ms Léan Kennedy, Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind; and Ms June Tinsley, Ms Lorna Fitzpatrick, advocacy and engagement manager, and Ms Joanne Murphy, service user and advocate, National Council for the Blind of Ireland, NCBI.

Witnesses are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice that they should not criticise or make charges against any person or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable or otherwise engage in speech that might be regarded as damaging the good name of the person or entity. If their statements are potentially defamatory in respect of an identified person or entity, they will be directed to discontinue their remarks. It is imperative that they comply with any such direction. For witnesses attending remotely outside the Leinster House campus, there are some limitations to parliamentary privilege and, as such, they may not benefit from the same level of immunity from legal proceedings as a witness who is physically present does. Witnesses participating in this session from a jurisdiction outside the State are advised that they should also be mindful of their domestic law and how it might apply to the evidence they give.

Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable. I remind members of the constitutional requirement that they must be physically present within the confines of the Leinster House campus in order to participate in public meetings. Reluctantly, I will not permit members to participate where they are not adhering to this constitutional requirement. Therefore, any member who attempts to participate from outside the precincts will be asked to leave the meeting. In this regard, I ask members participating via Microsoft Teams to confirm prior to making their contributions that they are on the grounds of the Leinster House campus.

I call on Mr. Fulham to make his opening statement.

Mr. John Fulham

On behalf of the Irish Wheelchair Association, I thank the committee for the opportunity to appear before it alongside my colleagues from the NCBI and Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind to discuss our concerns regarding the Road Traffic and Roads Bill 2021, with a particular focus on the use of e-scooters.

The IWA is one of Ireland's leading representative organisations and advocates with and on behalf of our 20,000 members, who are people with physical disabilities and limited mobility. We do this to address matters that are important to their lives. Our voice is here to represent that community on what is a matter of concern.

In recognising the advent of e-scooters and their increased usage in our society, we also recognise that e-scooters could contribute to addressing climate change and traffic congestion issues as part of a broader strategic approach. However, critical to this is the necessity that e-scooter use be implemented in a safe and practical manner and that the required legislation, regulation and practices not place disabled people or those with limited mobility in a vulnerable position and compromise their independence.

In advance of the draft legislation being published, the IWA created a position paper highlighting our concerns and, given the shared nature of our concerns, worked jointly with the NCBI and Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind to create a joint paper to raise awareness and support us all in having informed debate on this issue. Both papers have been submitted for the committee's attention. Having reviewed the legislation, a number of the issues previously raised are not addressed and amendments are required to ensure the safety of disabled pedestrians and those with limited mobility. This afternoon, committee members are hearing from all three organisations on issues of shared concern, including reduced speed limits, prohibited use on footpaths, usage controls, parking infrastructure and management of behaviour in both private and scheme-managed ownership.

The two areas that I will address are those of parking infrastructure and private e-scooter use. As a wheelchair user, I have a lived experience of bicycles and scooters and of how badly planned and managed parking can severely impact and significantly impede the day-to-day lives of disabled people and those with limited mobility, including the elderly and parents with buggies. The impact of unmanaged and careless parking of micro-mobility vehicles blocks pathways and places obstacles that result in disabled people being unable to proceed with their daily tasks or placing themselves at risk by going out on roads to circumnavigate the blockages, should they even be able to do so.

Added to obstacles such as illegally parked cars, wheelie bins, etc, we cannot compound the issues and place an additional obstacle to this list. My own experiences will testify to this challenge. When out on my own, or with my son in his buggy, I have frequently faced blockages from badly parked cars and bikes, forcing me to turn home as I have been left with no alternative. Unless addressed, e-scooters can, and will, add to this challenge. Legislation does not mandate designated parking areas or prohibit free-floating, lock-to parking. Feedback from our membership experience from both home and abroad is that free-floating, lock-to parking must be prohibited and that designated parking bays-areas are a necessity. Placement of designated parking bays must take into consideration the recommended circulation spaces with pathways and approach routes remaining unobstructed.

The other significant area of concern is the management of private e-scooter ownership and behaviour. Having spoken with several e-scooter scheme providers, use of e-scooters operated though a scheme structure can offer technologies and controls which can help manage driver behaviour. While such technologies are not a silver bullet for all issues, they will not exist on those vehicles that are privately owned. Therefore, it is important to address key concerns in this area. Given the potential growth in private ownership, the proposed legislation makes it an offence to supply an individual under the age of 16 with a e-scooter. However, it is essential that this provision is coupled with a minimum age requirement for the use of e-scooters. Maturity and the ability to behave responsibly means we must ensure we are consistent and appropriate in the age requirements that we set. Alongside reduced speed limits and prohibited use on footpaths, this is an important provision, among a suite of others, for the safety of all concerned, e-scooter users, people with disabilities and the general public.

As always, subsequent to the important first step of creating the right regulatory framework will be the implementation of those controls. The reality is this a global trend and that e-scooters are becoming a growing presence in Ireland. However, in all the key areas to be mentioned today by me and my colleagues from NCBI and Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind, there are lessons to be learned which have been made elsewhere in other countries, ones that can be avoided. Ireland has the opportunity here to lead the way with safety at its core. People with disabilities are not vulnerable. It is the constructs of the society around us that creates the vulnerability. I am here today to urge the committee to act upon our representations by proposing and supporting necessary amendments to the Bill to ensure that we do not create the circumstances where disabled people, yet again, are adversely impacted by the environment created around them. I again thank the committee for the opportunity to present to it today. I am happy to address any questions members may have and to hear the contributions they wish to make on this issue.

I thank Mr. Fulham and I invite Ms Kennedy to make her opening statement.

Ms Léan Kennedy

Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind and its clients welcome the opportunity to voice their concerns regarding the Bill to Deputies and Senators. We are partnering with the NCBI and the Irish Wheelchair Association in our position paper in response to the Bill. As such, my opening statement will focus on two key areas of concern for our clients, namely, the need for restrictions with regard to e-scooter use on footpaths, shared spaces such as dual cycle lanes and other pedestrianised areas and the need for provisions in the Bill with regard to insurance and minimum age limits.

In our more than 40-year history, Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind, quite simply, has worked to change lives. In the past year we have provided 34 guide dogs to people who are blind or vision impaired and 43 assistance dogs to families of children with autism. These highly trained, reliable and sociable working dogs help our clients to move independently and freely in their communities, to get to work and to socialise. My apologies, I need a moment.

Ms Kennedy can take all the time she needs to gather her thoughts. We will move to Ms Tinsley, following which I will come back to Ms Kennedy to conclude her opening statement. Is that okay?

Ms Léan Kennedy

Yes. I will conclude my statement then. My sincere apologies.

That is fine. I invite Ms Tinsley to make her opening statement.

Ms June Tinsley

Ms Joanne Murphy will also make a submission on behalf of NCBI. NCBI welcomes the opportunity to discuss with the committee its position on the regulation of e-scooters in Ireland as proposed within the Road Traffic and Roads Bill 2021. Together with IWA and Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind, the NCBI has areas of common concern that we seek to highlight to ensure the legislation is robust and can guarantee the safety of disabled pedestrians and those with mobility issues.

NCBI works with people who are blind or vision impaired from across the country. According to census 2016, there are 54,810 people living with sight loss in Ireland. We provide practical and emotional support, rehabilitation services and other training designed to help people with sight loss live independently and confidently. In our view, now is the time to get the legislation on e-scooter usage right as their popularity is growing every day. It is an opportunity to learn lessons from other countries as this legislation will govern both private ownership and shared public schemes that will operate in cities.

E-scooters have a role to play in improving our carbon footprint and increasing transport options for people on short journeys, but guaranteeing the safety of both rider and pedestrians must be paramount. To achieve this, a suite of minimum safety standards must be enshrined in law. These include a prohibition of usage on footpaths or shared spaces; a requirement for specific parking bays; the installation of a universal sound solution, which is robustly tested and researched to allow pedestrians to hear them approaching; and a maximum speed limit of 12 km/h on foot of the issues highlighted by my colleagues from IWA and Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind. The legislation as drafted allows for maximum speed limit of 25 km/h and allows for local authorities to reduce this to 20 km/h in certain areas or on particular roads. However, we believe this is still too high. We are calling for this maximum speed limit to be reduced to 12 km/h. This would help to reduce risk for pedestrians and e-scooter riders. We are also calling for additional consideration to be given to lower speeds around certain areas such as schools, with the speed limit in this area being reduced to 6 km/h. Go-slow zones via geofencing in shared schemes may be one element to consider, perhaps, in subsequent legislation. The key issue is enforcement to ensure there is adherence with the speed limit.

On the sound alert system, given the silent nature of e-scooters, people who are blind or vision impaired will have no way of knowing e-scooters are approaching until they are extremely close and unless there is a sound omitted from the e-scooter. Since July 2021, under EU regulation all manufacturers are mandated to equiptheir new electric and hybrid vehicles with an alert vehicular acoustic system, AVAS. While this regulation does not cover e-scooters, itpresents an opportunity for Ireland to lead out onlegislation in this area. NCBI recommends a universal sound solution that has been tested in the local context and scientifically proven to be effective. Such technological research is currently under way and while it will not be ready when the legislation is passed, provision should be made in law to allow for it.

Given the legislation applies to both private ownership and shared schemes we believe the installation of an audio into the design of the e-scooter would be raising the standards of safety. Shared scheme providers are already looking at this, but it needs to be robustly tested to guarantee there are no unintended consequences and it is complementary to the sounds applicable to electric cars. In addition to this sound, we believe that shared scheme operators should offer e-scooters with bells which are easily accessible tothe driver without them having to move their handsfrom the handlebars.

I would like to give the committee a flavour of the experiences of some of our service users.

We conducted a small survey and found that of the respondents, 75% reported incidents on footpaths, 62% of respondents reported incidents on multiple occasions and 57% of respondents reported electric scooter usage reduced their confidence to get out and about safely. This is the prevailing view not just in Dublin as responses were secured right across the country, which illustrates that there is a genuine concern about the increased use of electric scooters and they should be appropriately regulated.

I will conclude by relating what an individual said to me:

I had a collision with an electric scooter around eight months ago on my way to work. Thankfully, I was not injured but the rider was knocked to the ground. I am very grateful this collision occurred after I had done extensive mobility training and was confident going on my usual route. If it had happened to me six months earlier it would have severely set me back, knocked my confidence and therefore stopping me travelling independently to work.

I thank the Chairman.

Ms Kennedy may now conclude her statement.

Ms Léan Kennedy

Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind and our clients welcome the opportunity to speak about our concerns about the Road Traffic and Roads Bill 2021. We are partnering with the National Council for the Blind and the Irish Wheelchair Association in our position paper. As part of my opening statement, I will focus on two key areas of concern for our clients and members. The first is the need for clear and absolute restrictions to be placed on the use of electric scooters on footpaths, shared space and dual walking and cycling paths. There is a clear need for insurance requirements and age limits on the use of electric scooters.

In our more than 40-year history, we have worked to change lives. In the past year we have provided 34 guide dogs to people who are blind and vision-impaired and 43 assistance dogs to families of children with autism. These highly trained, reliable, sociable working dogs help improve the independence and mobility of their owners. As one client said, the dog "allows me to live my life on my terms". As a guide dog owner, I understand completely the positive impact my guide dog, Higgins, has had on my life.

Guide dogs are a mobility aid for people who are blind or vision-impaired and they help their owners to avoid obstacles and help them when changes in floor surfaces are approaching, such as with kerbs and steps. They also help to locate doorways to buildings, buses and trains. Assistance dogs help keep children with autism calm and stop them from bolting and endangering themselves. Guide and assistance dogs work really hard and concentrate to keep their owners safe but they can be startled by electric scooters due to their silent nature. It can be difficult for dogs to pre-empt danger as a result and react appropriately. These dogs may be forced to stop guiding and walking their owner in such cases as it is their only way to communicate to their owners an obstacle or hazard. This can be disorientating and confusing for people who are blind and vision-impaired and for children with autism.

Guide dogs and assistance dogs help people with disabilities to move about more freely and independently in their communities. They help their owner to participate fully in their community, get to work and socialise. In a recent survey, we found 89% of clients are concerned about their safety with regard to the use of electric scooters. Clients have said that electric scooters on footpaths will completely destroy their mobility, while some will find they will be more reluctant to go out and about independently if electric scooters are in their environment. Some are concerned about the anxiety caused to children with autism and that family outings will be made more difficult. The survey indicates that 53% of our clients have already had a negative encounter, including near collisions, with an electric scooter. One assistance dog owner states:

Riding on footpaths will cause problems. We have already had two collisions, riding off road, leaving my daughter crying on the footpath.

The survey indicates 90% of clients and members believe electric scooters should not be allowed on footpaths or in any pedestrian or shared space areas. We are asking the committee to review the Bill and ensure it can be amended appropriately so the people who use guide dogs and assistance dogs can have the confidence and ability to get out and about without the worry of colliding with electric scooters or any potential danger of personal injury.

We call on the committee to ensure the Bill is amended to allow clear prohibitions to be placed on electric scooters and to make it an offence for those scooters to be on footpaths, using pedestrian crossings or using dual cycle or walking paths. They should also be prohibited from encroaching on people who are out and about with their guide dogs and assistance dogs, as this makes it almost impossible for people to get out and about safely and independently. We are also asking for the Bill to be amended so that appropriate insurance requirements can be put in place. This will include the requirement for a provisional licence so that people using electric scooters have to undergo an appropriate training course in road safety and the use of the vehicles. This would make them more aware of the people around them. We also ask for the minimum age limit to be enforced appropriately. Currently, providers of electric scooters are only prohibited from selling them to people under the age of 16 but we must ensure there is a requirement for a provisional licence and insurance under the Bill. This would ensure people under the age of 16 would not be able to use electric scooters when out and about in public places, potentially endangering other people out and about who are trying to walk and travel.

I thank the committee for its time today so we could voice our concerns and convey the results of our recent survey. There is a strong need for the Bill to be amended so that people who are blind and vision-impaired, along with children with autism, can move freely and confidently through the environment without being worried about being encroached upon by these scooters that would force dogs to stop guiding and walking because of being startled by the electric scooter. It is very disorienting for them in trying to move freely through that environment.

Ms Joanne Murphy

I express my appreciation to the committee for allowing me to speak. I also thank the NCBI for its work on this. I might not be able to stay for the entire meeting because I am caring for my son and he has needs that may need attending to. I just wanted to give my own experience of somebody living with sight loss and also as somebody with a son with autism and an assistance dog. I am lucky my sight loss is not huge at the moment but even so, it still has a major impact on life every time I go out. Once I step outside the door it is into a dynamic, ever-changing environment and one needs a very high level of confidence to negotiate around the environment if one has a disability. We rely on footpaths being maintained and clear, audio signals at road crossings, contrasting steps and people observing traffic lights. All of these are essential to our independence.

The footpaths are our space and the only space we have to get around our community. If electric scooters are allowed to use the same space as us - the footpath - our space will be compromised. There is no other environment where we would expect a person to interact with an electric device that has the potential to move at a great speed, expecting to share that environment safely and in an unrestricted way. It is important to remember that throughout the country not all footpaths are the same. In smaller towns and villages with medieval centres, footpaths can be quite narrow and they are a problem in any circumstances, even to ordinary pedestrians.

Adding an e-scooter into those environments compromises the pedestrian entirely. I emphasise that when pedestrians are on the footpath and there are e-scooters, bikes or anything else there as well, then the pedestrian is compromised. Similarly shared spaces such as parks are greatly important for us. They allow us time to socialise and to enjoy time together. E-scooters should not be allowed in parks without restrictions. We have had several incidents of near misses with them locally, and it is a recipe for disaster.

To give an outline of the situation when we are out walking with our assistance dog, and the committee may not understand this, the dog is always looking for a route that runs in a straight line. When people are weaving in and out of our environment, criss-crossing with e-scooters, bikes, or things like that, that throws the dog off and it has to continually recalibrate where it is going. The dog regards itself and the person it is assisting as one unit, so there are two people involved in our case and the dog it is trying to work out things in the context of our position in the space where people may be weaving in and out. Equally, as Ms Kennedy said, the dog cannot hear the e-scooters, and neither can I. I also cannot see them. E-scooters can come right up next to me, right in front of the dog, and then it is thrown completely. I argue strongly for speed limit restrictions on e-scooters and the use of geo-sensing mechanisms to ensure that there are some restrictions put on them in some areas for everyone's safety. I say that because there is an issue here with the safety of those using the e-scooters as well. The balance on those machines is not great, so I imagine there would be some impact if the riders knocked into someone.

Equally, on several occasions in the last two years bikes and e-scooters have come close to the assistance dog and passed by very quickly, and that has stunned her and stopped her from working. In one incident, an e-scooter went into the back of the dog. It was not a huge impact, but it was enough to stop her and she would not work. She refused the jacket for two months. That was an enormous setback for us. Not only was it not possible for us to go out, but my son's safety was compromised when we were out because he did not have his assistance dog. There is also the issue for us concerning whether it is possible or safe to rehabilitate the dog. There is also the worry about whether something like that might happen again. It was that incident that really motivated me to have an input on this legislation. There is also a massive financial cost incurred by the charity if it is necessary to replace the dog. In addition, it is impossible to know if the next dog will bond or how much work will be involved in that respect. There is much uncertainty. An incident like the one I described could, therefore, change someone's life dramatically. In that context, I reiterate that e-scooters should be banned from using footpaths, speed limits should be imposed on them and their use should be restricted in areas of mixed use.

The other aspect that should be considered is that incidents like the one I spoke of bring people into personal conflict with complete strangers. There is a risk of injury to people from being bumped into by the e-scooter and, indeed, a risk for the rider of the e-scooter as well. Equally, that raises the question of whether such a conflict is what people might be able for or wish to involved in on a given day. We have experienced a great deal of such conflict in the past two years, but before that as well. People might sometimes shout when the dog is taken in somewhere, and we must consider the impact such experiences have on people. It is hugely wearing psychologically on me as the carer, and the significant impact on the people with autism means that it can completely throw them. It can have a huge impact on their sense of well-being and their interactions with the local community.

That is where I am at in this situation. My questions on this matter concern who is going to implement this and how it is going to be implemented in the context of the Garda and enforcement. I thank the committee again for the invitation to contribute.

I thank Ms Murphy for taking the time to come before our committee. All the witnesses have very personal stories. I am the first person up on the rota to ask questions. Mr. Fulham might deal with my first query. What engagement has there been collectively with the Department and the relevant Ministers on the joint proposal regarding the amendments that need to be made to the road traffic legislation, specially concerning e-scooters?

Mr. John Fulham

We received an acknowledgement when the joint papers were submitted, and I had a response from the Minister of State, Deputy Naughton, regarding our own position paper. Other than that, however, there has been no engagement with either myself or, to the best of my knowledge, my colleagues concerning the drafting of the legislation. I am, though, open to correction from my colleagues on this point. From the perspective of the IWA, we were not consulted in advance of the legislation being brought forward.

I take it that has not happened since either.

Mr. John Fulham

No, it has not.

Have Ms Kennedy, Ms Tinsley and Ms Murphy had any interaction with the Department of Transport or the Ministers regarding their proposals?

Ms Léan Kennedy

No. As we were embarking on the campaign, our submission paper was sent to all the relevant Ministers and Members of the Oireachtas. Some were good enough to respond to us and to meet with us directly. There has been little contact with representatives of the Department of Transport, however, regarding our position paper and our concerns.

Ms June Tinsley

Our experience has been the same. The joint position paper was circulated to all Deputies and Senators. It led to some one-to-one engagements with different Members of the Houses. We have not, though, had a conversation with the Department. There was just an acknowledgement of our position paper.

The committee will follow up on this issue to request that there be engagement with and feedback provided to the witnesses' organisations regarding their submissions. Apart from what we are doing ourselves in this context, the Bill itself be scheduled for Committee Stage with us relatively soon, and we will take up these points then. There is no substitute for personal experience, and in that vein, I have some questions for Ms Kennedy, whose daughter has autism. She has an assistance dog. What has her experience been in the context of the operation of e-scooters in public now? I am interested in the personal story in this regard and what the experience is like day-to-day for Ms Kennedy's daughter.

Ms Léan Kennedy

The other speaker was from the NCBI. I am vision-impaired and own a guide dog, and I am representing Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Ms Kennedy can tell us about her own experience of having a guide dog and being out and about and the interaction day-to-day in the context of e-scooters as they are operating now.

Ms Léan Kennedy

I have a guide dog. He is seven years of age so he is a very well established guide dog and has good experience and confidence getting me out and about. I also have a one-year old daughter who I have to bring with me and carry with me on the buggy at times. The guide dog is guiding me and helping me get my daughter from A to B. My experience is that the e-scooters do rush up on the footpath. All you can do is stop. Often the people on the e-scooters think that we are doing it to be polite and to accommodate them. They often whizz by saying "thank you". They think it is great that we stop. They do not realise that it is completely disorienting to us and startling to the dog. I have to settle my guide dog again and refocus him because he is under a lot of pressure at times to ensure that not only am I being safe but that my daughter is safe as well. That is the issue and the concern.

I have worked with Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind for a number of years and have also been vision impaired since 13 years, so it is for a good number of years. I am finding that pedestrian access is becoming more and more difficult. Our experiences with e-scooters have become even more common in the recent months and weeks because people are trying to be more climate friendly and there being less traffic. We have been making compromises. Traditionally the kerb edge of the footpath was 120 mm. That was the best height to stop cars from going up onto the pavement and the best height for people who are visually impaired to know when they are stepping off onto the road. Kerbs have been being lowered since the 1980s to help calm traffic and to make drivers feel more at risk of causing an accident in order that they will drive more slowly and be more aware of other road users. That is a compromise that we have been making. It has gone from 120 mm down to 80 mm and to 60 mm and it is going even lower than that. The absolute minimum requirement we can take is 40 mm. It is making urban areas very difficult. We do not even know we were on the road half the time because the kerbs are going so low. Some people believe that tactile paving to mark the difference between the footpath and the road is the optimum solution to ensuring that blind or visually impaired people are safe and know we are on the footpath but it most certainly is not. The kerb is what we need. We have been working hard and we have been compromising. Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind has been adapting its training and the work of our dogs. We have been training our dogs to recognise tactile paving and so on. You can appreciate the stress we are under. This is one more thing that is happening to accommodate the mainstream and the move towards less traffic in the street and so on but what it is doing is pushing people with disabilities out more and more. We are really concerned and worried about this. The risk of colliding and getting into an accident with an e-scooter is highly likely. It has been happening. For myself, blind with a guide dog, getting out and about with my one-year old is difficult enough as it is but it will become almost impossible if e-scooters will be up on the pavement and getting in our way.

Ms Tinsley spoke about a collision with an e-scooter about eight months ago. Can she tell us about what happened and the circumstances? Can she tell us how it is impacting on a day-to-day basis?

Ms June Tinsley

When someone gets a diagnosis of sight loss it can have a huge impact on his or her life as he or she tries to adjust to the news and has to cope with getting out and about safely and building up his or her confidence to do that. Therefore when e-scooters, bicycles and things like that come along, it does seriously knock people's confidence. In this case, the individual was walking on their way to work on a route with which he was very familiar because we walked with him and trained him on this route to be familiar with certain junctions and roads. He felt genuinely confident after beginning to accept his sight loss and adjust to his new sight. That individual did not hear a thing. The e-scooter came up on the kerb. Thankfully the individual was not injured but it did knock the driver off the scooter. Only for the fact that this person had built up the confidence in navigating his way safely and independently was he able to keep going on his journey. Had he not undergone that training, it would have genuinely set him back in his ability to get out safely.

In summary then, the first request is that these scooters would not be allowed to ride on footpaths.

Ms June Tinsley

That is correct.

I will move to Mr. Fulham. The Irish Wheelchair Association's submission sought that there would be two sides of the coin both in ownership and the use of e-scooters, so that they would be confined to those over 16 years. Is that correct?

Mr. John Fulham

Yes. The legislation addresses the supply of e-scooters and their sale to those over 16 years but there is no provision in the legislation addressing their usage. That is something that is key to be addressed and it must be consistent in respect of both sale and usage. Let us be brutally honest. At 16 years we are looking for maturity in behaviour. These are not toys, they are mobility devices. Our concern would be to address that.

The Irish Wheelchair Association is looking for reduced speeds. Could it be done on a zonal basis so that certain areas would have higher speeds than others? Is the association looking for designated parking for e-scooters in various locations, perhaps within designated areas? Are they the two things being sought?

Mr. John Fulham

Yes, speed can be managed on a zonal basis. With pedestrian areas or pedestrian-only streets they can be kept out or the speed of the scooter can be brought down but that has to be enshrined in regulation and law. We require and request designated parking areas. Lived experience is that free-floating or locked-to parking where scooters can be left on stands just parked anywhere or are locked to poles or railings or fences are inevitably badly parked and they fall over and get in the way. Our experience is based on precedents and facts, so that is why we are looking for designated parking areas.

I thank all the witnesses. I think the Chair summed it up when he spoke of their lived experience and understanding. What is needed is interaction with the Department particularly when we get closer to what we are proposing. People might have expected that the Bill would include more detail on how these e-scooters were to be used but much of it will be left up to regulation. We need to get into the nitty-gritty of that. I accept the difficulties that the witnesses are outlining. Some of it is about the townscapes and planning and our road infrastructure. Like the reply to the person asking for directions in Kerry, I would not start from here. We just do not have wide enough roads or sufficient space in some places and that creates its own difficulties. I will go through some of the points made by the witnesses and will seek their ideas on some notions I will throw out.

I will also refer to some of the general conversations we have had with regard to people who have been proposing schemes and the like. Everybody accepts we cannot have these dumped everywhere and that there must be rules about some type of parking. If we were having a conversation about accessibility and so forth, I imagine it would be about the fact that people parking on pavements has created huge obstacles for the witnesses and the people in their organisations.

On the question of insurance and licensing, we all accept there has to be an age limit in respect of usage, but it is a fact that one does not need insurance to cycle. The idea with some of these schemes, similar to the Dublinbikes scheme, is that one does not need a licence or a helmet so that makes it relatively easy for people to use it. That is accepting the argument that has been made about geofencing, that there are shared spaces, that pavements might not be the place we want this to happen and that there is peaceful coexistence, for want of a better term. However, I will just deal with insurance and licensing. Again, we can put things in and we can want them, but they might not necessarily be deliverable. I have no skin in the game in this regard.

Deputy, you should direct questions to specific witnesses.

Mr. Fulham could speak about that. He spoke specifically about insurance and a number of other speakers mentioned licensing.

Mr. John Fulham

Regarding the insurance, it is important to make a differentiation. E-scooters are battery operated. I do not want to get into the technology of wattage and power because I am not qualified to do so, but for the purpose of looking at that, at what point does it move to a moped? Looking at the insurance, and Ms Kennedy and Ms Tinsley might have other comments on this as Ms Kennedy addressed insurance as well, it is about who has the liability and who is in the right and the wrong in an accident if somebody is impacted by a scooter. E-scooters are not on footpaths if there are speed limits. If we have a number of other controls, perhaps there can be some discussions about what the insurance would be. That is my comment on insurance. I do not have the answer, but they are my thoughts and it could be discussed with the Department.

As regards the age limit, we all have addressed it. This is very specific. We are moving into battery operated, so where does the knowledge for the user of the e-scooter come from? If we want maturity, it is the older one sets the limit. One would hope one would have the maturity, although it is not a given. From that point of view, it is understanding that and that dynamic.

I agree and I believe that is where we will get down to it, around the age. Some type of training has to be involved, whether that is for buying, using or using a shared scheme. There may be a simplified way to do it. Then if there are limits relating to the speed of the vehicle combined with those other mitigations and protections with regard to where one can and cannot use it, that should address some of that. We probably should look into best practice as regards the sound system, to move on to the next matter. I am also interested in where the 12 km speed came from.

Ms June Tinsley

That was from me. The Deputy is correct. We need to learn from best practice and from other jurisdictions where these e-scooters have been operational for a longer time than they have been here. To add to the point regarding insurance, one consideration would be to make sure that where there is an operator of a shared ownership scheme similar to the Dublinbikes scheme, any person joining that scheme would have to undergo some rider training provided by the provider so the person would be aware of the needs of both pedestrians and individuals with mobility issues. It is imperative they are conscious of that. Appropriate training should be provided by those providers.

As regards the speed limit, this was considered by multiple other countries and they have reduced their speed limits to about 20 km. It has already been reviewed in other countries. The rationale for 12 km was to instil an element of best practice and to be mindful of the vulnerability of the rider if he or she is going at top speed and is not wearing a helmet and so forth, as well as the pedestrians we are very concerned about. If it is operational on footpaths, that obviously increases the risk of collision. Reducing the speed reduces the risk.

There is a requirement on this committee to do some due diligence on that, particularly on those pieces of work. It is about seeing what works, what has not worked, where the dangers are and, as Ms Tinsley said, what is even being reviewed at this time. To some degree the genie is out of the bottle in the sense that, in the past year, we have seen very many more of these things. To be honest, and I am on the record about this, I arrived home one day to find one in the house, unfortunately. My 17-year-old had decided it was a good idea to get it. He managed to break the battery within two days and I have not offered to fix it. I am sure he is like every other teenager one sees on them in Dundalk. They are wearing black tracksuits and there is no evidence of lighting. The only sound one will hear from them is when one of them crashes into somebody. However, I also see that it has taken root as a means of active travel. It is how we can wed that with the witnesses' needs. That will mean a great deal more interaction. On one level there is a requirement on us to do work, but there is also a requirement on the Department and the Minister to come forward with a discussion space for looking at these speeds, at a training scheme, for want of a better term, and then what is and is not doable. That has to be done as soon as possible.

I have probably used up most of my time. I will put a request to all the witnesses. There are obviously the specific requests contained in their submissions and opening statements. I have had a number of submissions locally from accessibility activists, people who are dealing with their own issues or other people within their organisations who have come to me about difficulties they have where I come from. They talked about the difficulties of getting buses, especially as regards wheelchairs, and buses not picking them up, being told lifts do not work, the design of pavements, which Ms Kennedy spoke about, and the fact new estates are not suited at times for bus pick-up points and so forth. We basically have a difficulty with town planning, particularly as it relates to transport in general. Would it be possible to get a submission from the witnesses on that? I know it is a lot to ask and I am sorry about that, but it is a piece of work we have to do ourselves. That will add to our conversations when we are dealing with issues relating to taxis, bus, rail and so forth in the future.

Ms Léan Kennedy

Yes, we would be very happy to facilitate that. I will follow up with the clerk later to find out where to make the submission. We have to clear up what the best practice is so we can ensure we are moving forward in the right way.

I want to follow up on the question that the Chairman put about getting proper engagement with the Department officials on this issue. Throughout Second Stage many Deputies raised the issues that are encountered with this mode of transport. There has not been any level of engagement with these groups so I propose that we follow up on that. I ask the Chairman to give me guidance on what he intends to do, as Chairman of this committee, to secure robust engagement with officials in order to get the changes that are needed and for Department officials to listen to these groups?

What I intend to do, and obviously this is with the agreement of members, is write to the Minister for Transport, the Minister of State, Deputy Naughton, and the Secretary General of the Department of Transport specifically stating that we have had the various groups in before us in terms of people impacted by disabilities. I am referring to the Irish Wheelchair Association, the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind and the National Council for the Blind Ireland. I will state that they have made submissions to the Department and that we have noted that the submissions have been acknowledged. I will ask for constructive active engagement. I will ask for a meeting with the representative bodies to discuss the specific items that they have raised. I will ask how they will be addressed and for a meeting to be arranged as a matter of urgency.

I was really taken by Ms Kennedy's submission and her description of being out for a walk with her guide dog but had to give way to a person on an e-scooter who interacted with her guide dog in a really disturbing way. Such behaviour will become commonplace if it is not dealt with in this Bill. A person with a disability is entitled to walk with her dog and daughter on a footpath as footpaths are for common use. A joint submission has been made and I am disappointed that only an acknowledgement has been received to date. I strongly support the call for robust engagement on foot of this meeting of the Oireachtas joint committee whereby the officials from the Department, the Minister and Minister of State would sit down with these groups to iron out some of the issues. I thank all of the witnesses for their submissions today and assure them that we, as a committee, will follow up this issue.

I will go back to Senator Boylan. Is she available to talk? No. Next is Deputy Duncan Smith and he has eight minutes.

I thank the witnesses for their contributions. What engagement have the witnesses had with representatives of e-scooter companies and providers? In the last number of months since this e-scooter legislation has been in gestation, and First Stage has been published, there has been a proliferation of e-scooter companies seeking to speak to politicians. What level of engagement has there been with the organisations? How have the engagements gone? I do not wish to betray any confidential aspects of meetings but how receptive were the e-scooter companies to their cases? What did they ask the companies to do in terms of this legislation?

I want a further explanation of geo-fencing. From a technical point of view I am interested in learning how geo-fencing works. The information would fill a gap in my knowledge of same.

I made a submission on the greater Dublin strategy to the National Transport Authority last week. Central to my submission was to ensure that we disability-proof all transport infrastructure and provision. It is one thing saying that in a submission but it is legislation like this where we need to see the proof in the pudding. Everything that has been asked for today in terms of making shared spaces and pathways safe for people with disabilities is fundamentally fair and needed.

I was struck by what Ms Kennedy, I think, said about making legislation for the mainstream. This is not how this legislation should progress and I hope that it is not seen like that. We need to ensure that this legislation is as disability proofed as possible. What has come through in the papers that were submitted previously and in the submissions and contributions that were made today are very fair and something that we need to strive to include in the legislation. I am interested in hearing answers to my first set of questions and I hope that someone can answer my question on geo-fencing.

I suggest that the Deputy identifies who he would like to answer his questions.

I would like my questions answered in order so that is Mr. Fulham, Ms Tinsley and Ms Kennedy in terms of what engagement the organisations have had with the companies.

Mr. John Fulham

We have been approached over the past few months by a number of e-scooter scheme providers that operate across Europe and internationally. Our principle of engagement with them is equal and we gave them the same information with the purpose of ensuring the safe implementation of e-scooter usage in terms of the people whom we represent. That is the premise on which we engaged with each company. We shared the same information but we worked with each of them in a way that was specific to them. We sit on safety boards that they may have, or they look for position papers or they question us on various pieces of safety information. Most of the e-scooter providers have been very interested and open to engage with us around this, which I would expect given that they seek to move their business into the Irish market.

Ms Léan Kennedy

Similar to the Irish Wheelchair Association, some companies have contacted us. They have told us that they were open to hearing our concerns, that they wanted to know what changes they could make to make e-scooter use friendlier and safer around people with disabilities and other people using walkways and so on. They stated that they really feel strongly that smart technology will be a big factor in helping to improve safety and more but we have not been convinced of that yet. The companies have offered to show us examples of how the technology has worked in different countries and how well it has been implemented. In our research we have found that an awful lot of countries, especially EU member states, are pushing back because they have had so many issues with legalising e-scooters in terms of personal injury claims and so on.

Our research does not show this technology works. Yes, the companies have been in touch and expressed a desire to do projects. They want to do testing and conduct studies with our service users. We are not convinced that there is a solution beyond what we have asked for in our positional paper. As a starting point, the Bill needs to be amended as we have asked, in terms of the points that we have raised in our paper, to make it in any way workable for people with disabilities but in its current state it is not workable.

Ms June Tinsley

From an NCBI point of view, similar to others, we have been approached by multiple providers in the last 18 months, all seeking to learn more about the issues and concerns that will affect people who are blind or vision impaired. Some of them have been more proactive in trying to resolve some of these concerns and showcasing what they can do as providers. Some of them have asked us to sit on safety boards, as mentioned by other speakers, but, all in all, we have been very explicit in the concerns we have with e-scooter provision. As I said, some of them have been quite proactive and one of them was keen to show us the work it is doing on the installation of an audio signal on the e-scooter it is designing. While we were happy to give some initial feedback, as I said my presentation, it is very important that those sounds that could be attributed to an e-scooter are robustly and scientifically examined so it is not a rush job just to meet a commercial need, but rather it is fully scientifically underpinned with evidence that this is the best sound to include on an e-scooter. That is a bit of a work in progress.

My understanding is that geofencing is a digital tool which can be inserted in an e-scooter that will enable the shared scheme providers to map where each of their suite of e-scooters is when in operation. It can be used as a tool to prohibit their usage on pedestrianised zones or that kind of thing. It is not a silver bullet because there are a number of flaws with it. If it is a GPS-based system, it can often be the case that where the e-scooter says it is and where it actually is are slightly different. As a result, it might not be in its designated parking bay where it should be and may be a couple of metres away, which could mean it is not parked properly and could cause an obstruction. Likewise, if they were introduced on e-scooter shared schemes, there is no guarantee it would be operational on private e-scooters, which is a concern for us.

Has Ms Murphy had any interaction with the sellers of e-scooters?

Ms Joanne Murphy

No, I have not.

Does Deputy Smith wish to come back in?

I am happy with those responses. I thank the witnesses for their contributions.

I call Senator Boylan.

I thank the speakers. I apologise as I had to leave for a time and I hope I do not repeat the questions. I read the opening statements and I recognised the issues raised as I was in Brussels for a while. Brussels is one of the examples of how not to do e-scooters because the system there means e-scooters are just dumped on the road and people are paid in the gig economy to bring them in and charge them in their houses. Trying to navigate the streets of Strasbourg or Brussels is a complete nightmare if people are visually impaired. It is important we get this right and learn from the mistakes of other countries which are now trying retrospectively to regulate e-scooter use.

My questions for the witnesses are around the insurance issue in particular. I listened to Mr. Fulham, who pointed out that these are battery-operated and they are not the same as a bicycle. Are there examples where this has been introduced in other jurisdictions and has worked? Some e-scooters are very powerful and some have small batteries. Could we have a graded system so that if they go over a certain speed, people would fall foul of having to get car insurance? Are there good examples of best practice in terms of insurance in other European countries?

It is the same with regard to sound. Will somebody be enforcing that or would that have to be done at an EU level because it is the Single Market and has to be enforced? While this might be dealt with in national legislation, the products might be produced within the Single Market. Is that going to prevent us introducing those regulations?

Mr. John Fulham

I thank the Senator for the questions. Yes, there are examples of various practices across Europe in regard to insurance and the requirements, even on the broader spectrum with regard to safety such as the use of safety helmets and the requirement to wear a high-viz jacket. For example, in Germany, it is necessary to get insurance. As I said in my opening statement, there are examples of best practice out there and we can learn from the mistakes. Even in looking to parking, Paris had a similar problem to the one in Brussels and the authorities contacted the e-scooter providers and brought them in.

The one point I would make in addressing all of this is that the scheme providers are one element but we need to emphasise Ms Tinsley’s point that the legal framework is so important. We have some mechanisms to work with the scheme providers and they are the ones with the technology, so we need the potential insurance schemes to cover their operations. In private e-scooter ownership, that does not exist and, therefore, the legal framework in terms of legislation and regulation is critical to cover what is a gaping hole in what is being proposed at the moment.

As was said, there is also the issue with buggies. I am a dad and I have had both, although it is an unusual sight to see an e-scooter and a buggy coming along the path. This is about vision impairment but it is also about limited mobility. We are talking about people who are getting older and while they may not have an impairment now, they might have one when they are older. We always say to people that while they might not need us now, they may need us in the future. In the scope of who needs to be included in this conversation, it is important to remember that.

Ms Léan Kennedy

In terms of examples of how insurance has worked well in other countries, we have not actually come across a good example. One of the reasons behind our ask in the paper is the hope that putting an insurance policy system in place would deter bad behaviour by people using e-scooters, such as going up on footpaths when it is prohibited, and so on.

People who are blind or vision impaired like me have an extra concern in terms of how we would identify someone who is using an e-scooter that has had a collision with us. We need to ensure there is an accessible plate on the e-scooter and we also need a system in place whereby we can identify the e-scooter user. The hope is that this would come under a good insurance policy. There are asks, and how we explored and examined it was by looking at how we could encourage better behaviour from people using e-scooters when the law is implemented.

Ms June Tinsley

I want to come back in on two issues. In regard to the insurance requirement, it is mandatory in some of our European neighbours, for example, Germany and France, whereas it is optional in other countries, so that is something we need greater consistency on.

In terms of the sound, again, taking the learning from the EU, there is a clear EU regulation that mandates that sound needs to be inserted on all electric and hybrid vehicles from July of last year. Using that as a model, we can translate it into something similar for the e-scooter sector. I know that, for example, some countries such as the UK and Australia had installed sounds on e-scooters but they were not robustly tested or scientifically proven, and it was done in a rushed manner. The feedback they got from pedestrians, providers and users was that the sound was not effective so they have withdrawn that pilot.

There is plenty of scope to improve the research and the evidence base to make sure we arrive at a sound that can be used and can be consistent across Europe. As I said, if we use the model that applies to electric vehicles, it could be a solution.

Does Ms Murphy wish to contribute on this issue?

Ms Joanne Murphy

I do. I thank the Chairman. The whole insurance thing is the most difficult part of this. It is something that we really need to address. As Ms Tinsley and Ms Kennedy stated and as I set out in my written submission, if a person has an impact with us, there is potential for an injury that you would not get over easily. There could be long-term effects. There is no comeback or way of identifying the person unless the e-scooter is registered. All of those things may need to be considered for the safety of people with disabilities as well as the general public. There is a need to view it as being on a sliding scale because there are people who have an impairment but not a disability. They, too, will be impacted if there are many e-scooter users on footpaths. Even if they are not injured, an awful lot of people will be deterred from being independent. If an e-scooter suddenly appearing in your central field of vision because you have not detected it in your peripheral vision, you get a terrible fright and are really shaken. I have experienced that. It does not take many such experiences to shake your confidence in being able to go out. It is certainly an issue for me when I go out with my son attached to an assistance dog. When an e-scooter went into the back of Polly, I was faced with the situation of having to get the dog and my son home safely. It is a complex situation. If we tackle it now, we can put in measures to address this. We hope insurance and registration would cause to people to take note of the need to be responsible in the ownership and usage of e-scooters.

I thank Ms Murphy.

Those were comprehensive answers. On the issue of audio, if there is an EU directive in respect of electric and hybrid vehicles, I suspect a similar directive would be needed in respect of e-scooters, rather than being able to do it nationally. That does not mean it is not worth pursuing. It may be worthwhile for the organisations represented here today to get in touch with their MEPs and lobby them to push for it. It is an excellent suggestion. Only this morning, I was spooked by an e-scooter that came up behind me while I was out for a run. They appear out of nowhere. It is a very practical request to have the sound but I am just flagging that it may fall foul of the Single Market, which is unfortunate.

I thank our guests for what has been a very informative session. I will direct my first question to Ms Tinsley and Mr. Fulham. We know there are many issues that are not dealt with in the legislation and we understand the Minister intends to bring in regulations to address those issues. Do our guests have a perspective in terms of what should be included in the legislation and what can be adequately addressed in regulation? Does it make a difference?

My sense from the Government is that, largely, these vehicles are to be treated as being comparable with bicycles. A requirement for registration and insurance might be perceived as a barrier to access. Of course, the Government wants to realise the opportunity of these vehicles to get people out of their cars, ultimately, and for them to be part of the greater mix. If the issue of the sound was addressed - I am hearing clearly the concerns in that regard - and these vehicles were properly regulated in terms of where they can travel, the speeds they can go and the age restrictions, would that mitigate or address some of the issues relating to insurance and registration? Specifically on insurance, is it needed across the board? Is it just needed for the providers of shared schemes or for individuals as well?

Mr. John Fulham

I thank the Deputy. As regards his point that e-scooters will be treated in a manner similar to bicycles, if that is to be the case, we need consistency. Bicycles are not currently allowed on footpaths. It is most unsettling to see a bicycle or an e-scooter coming at you on the footpath, but there is a common perception in terms of public behaviour that cycling on the footpath is frowned upon. People may become aggressive and vociferous about it, but that is not necessarily so in the case of e-scooters. In terms of consistency, what needs to be brought into the equation is the fact that an increasing number of scooters are battery-powered rather than manual. If there were to be consistency with the requirements for mopeds and motorbikes, a person would need to be 16 to start learning how to use them and would need a licence and insurance. Should e-scooters be placed in that category? I am not here to present solutions because there is far more work to be done. We are here to advocate on the issues. Those are my thoughts. If there is to be consistency, it must be consistent.

On the issue of regulation as compared with legislation, my concern with regulation again relates to consistency. For example, there is the potential for different speed limits in different regions of the country such that there would be different limits in Limerick, Dublin, Cork, Galway, Waterford or wherever. If these issues were addressed in legislation, that would provide a more robust framework. I think the key to all this is discussion, which probably has not taken place to date.

Ms June Tinsley

I thank the Deputy for his questions. On the issue of regulation versus legislation, I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Fulham regarding the need for clear parameters to be put into the legislation. For us, these are very basic minimum standards that need to be applied to ensure consistent regulation. Those standards relate to speed, clear prohibition of usage on footpaths, the insertion of the sound, clear designated parking bays and a minimum age restriction. For us, those are the basics that need to go into legislation. If they are not clearly set out in legislation, problems will arise in the context of enforcement. It is unclear in the legislation as it stands who will be fully enforcing it. Will that fall to the Garda or to local authorities? There needs to be greater clarity in that regard because without clear enforcement this legislation will not become live or will not be fully abided by. We need clear enforcement in order to manage pedestrian and wider behaviour and to ensure the whole environment is safe for everybody.

As regards whether having these basic minimum safety standards would mitigate against the need for insurance, that is a bigger debate. There is a big difference between private ownership and shared scheme ownership, yet both models are being placed within this legislative framework. We need to be clear. One does not necessarily want to have distinctions. At the end of the day, e-scooter riders are e-scooter riders, so the same parameters need to apply.

I thank Mr. Fulham and Ms Tinsley. I have a follow-up question on the broader point. I echo the comments of Deputy Ó Murchú regarding the broader issues in respect of accessibility, particularly in terms of public transport.

I want to take the opportunity to address some of those issues today. I will raise a couple of measures the Government has taken in recent times. There has been a doubling of fines to try to tackle the issue of parking of footpaths. What is our guests' sense of that and the effectiveness of that response? Some people are pointing towards the need for enforcement.

Other issues were the standing down of the board of the Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal and the issue around primary medical certificates. This goes back a long time. There have been issues about definitions and criteria, as well as the exclusion of individuals from those schemes. Will each of our guests comment on their sense of those changes and what needs to be done to improve? Perhaps Ms Kennedy would start.

Ms Léan Kennedy

I thank the Deputy. With regard to illegal parking and the issues it causes for clients and members of the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind, enforcement is the issue. It can vary regionally and county by county. During the day, in most areas, it is a matter for the local authority traffic warden to implement fines and to do the work of being vigilant about illegal parking. In the evening, it falls to the Garda. Enforcement depends on the time of day, which means that people with a disability have to think about who to contact and to whom to submit a complaint, depending on who is enforcing the rules.

I will give an example of the issues and experiences of our clients. I know of a blind woman who uses a guide dog and lives in a town. When she gets off her bus coming home from work, she is forced into the middle of the road, in the midst of cyclists, because there are cars parked beside the bus stop. Those cars are being parked there because the drivers have decided it is the best place to park when they are shopping in the local Aldi. This is the type of issue people are having. We need to make sure that the rules are tightened and enforced more appropriately around e-scooter use, parking bays and all of that so we can stop this type of behaviour. It really does put people with disabilities at considerable risk.

Mr. John Fulham

I thank the Deputy. I think we would all echo what Ms Kennedy has said. The introduction of the increased fine is welcome as a measure because there is nothing that influences behavioural change than a hit in one's back pocket, to be honest. That is what people react to. However, the key to that is implementation so if the rules are not enforced, the change, while welcome, will not be effective. The key to delivery is enforcement.

The Deputy also asked about the primary medical certificates. We are all probably in agreement that a major review of primary medical certificates needs to be undertaken. As to the question on eligibility, the resignation of the board will in all likelihood mean a public raising of the concerns and frustrations around the primary medical certificate issue. I say that without any inside information about the board and it was not a matter I was coming here to address today. We must remember, alongside that issue, the mobility allowance and transport grant were stopped nearly a decade ago and have not come back. The committee knows there is a broad suite of issues. A review is required of the primary medical certificate. It is as simple as that. The sooner it can get under way, the better.

Ms Joanne Murphy

I totally agree with what has been said about a review of the primary medical certificate. I would like it to include people with intellectual disabilities or autism, people who, in the severe category, will definitely never hold independent employment. They definitely need preferential parking for ease of access for their carers and themselves. That needs to be looked at and there are probably other issues around that and conditions that would need to be included.

Illegal parking is a continuing issue. People are regularly forced into the bus lane because a driver has randomly decided to park in the way. When one goes out on a journey, one does not know if that is going to be an obstacle unless it is a regular occurrence, in which case one can get the Garda to deal with it. There is still a lot to be done in terms of public awareness in that regard. Some of that is down to the fact that, in our local communities, we need to be visible and active in raising our rights, concerns and issues in order that people understand where we are coming from.

I do not meet the requirements under the eye test for driving but, equally, I am not registered blind. If I were in employment, I would seriously have to consider giving it up because I would get more free travel. We should look at that and other areas like it.

Ms June Tinsley

I thank the Deputy for the question. In connection with the increased fines that are going to be applicable from 2022 onwards, enforcement is crucial to changing driver behaviour and would result in greater public awareness. Those things go hand in hand and I support my colleagues who mentioned that earlier.

On primary medical certificates, the Deputy is right that blindness is not regarded as a criterion so a review of that is required. To Mr. Fulham's point, it needs to be regarded in the context of the full suite of supports available to empower people and ensure individuals can travel independently. As Ms Murphy rightly said, there is a bunch of individuals who are not registered blind and are ineligible for free travel. That can seriously compromise their independence so it needs to be looked at as part of a suite of measures.

I thank all our guests for their attendance today, for their submissions and for sharing their experiences with us. As we try to craft legislation, one of the advantages of sitting on a committee is the opportunity to bring in experts and people with experience in an area. That assists us to get the legislation right and to try to get it right first time. We do not always succeed in doing that but we are going to make an attempt this time.

We are dealing with a lot of new technologies here, including electric vehicles and, in particular, scooters. I want to put some questions to our guests, the first of which I will direct to Mr. Fulham and Ms Kennedy. It relates to what they referred to in their opening statements. My experience is that much of the time, our footpaths are a battle zone for pedestrians, vulnerable users, schoolchildren, people in wheelchairs, elderly people and all of us. We are all crammed onto footpaths. We have given over masses of space to motorised vehicles. There are some good graphics on this issue. If one looks at the space left for vulnerable users, pedestrians and cyclists, all of us who are vulnerable to cars, compared to what cars get, it is completely unfair and inequitable. This has been planned. We have planned for the dominance of cars for the past 60 years in the way we have designed our towns and the way we have allowed planning to sprawl. We have created car dependency. That often has impacts for air quality as well, which impacts all of us.

Some very vulnerable people are impacted by the air quality created by the disproportionate space that we give to motorised vehicles. In terms of the unmanaged and careless parking to which Mr. Fulham referred, I often see cars parked on footpaths, cars not displaying a disability badge parked in a disability bay, and cars almost abandoned on double yellow lines. It does create a real difficulty.

I also accept that I have seen bicycles locked to railings or locked around a pole that have fallen down and that are covering the entire footpath. I completely accept that it is very difficult for somebody to manage, especially somebody with visual challenges or mobility challenges. Most cyclists and users of EVs will accept that if they had allocated parking bays they would use them because they do not want to chain their bike to a railing and they want to put it in a proper bicycle stand. Most people do, but we still do not have enough of them throughout towns and villages.

What we need to look at here is proper road space allocation. We must ensure that we have the proper road space allocation in order that people on electric bikes, bicycles or scooters have a safe carriageway to travel along. Footpaths need to be addressed. Local authorities require better funding to make sure that footpaths are kept repaired and that they are not uneven, cracked and damaged with holes. We see trees removed and stumps left; all sorts of carelessness goes on. That is what we need to address, instead of pitching various footpath users or active travel users against each other. The concentration needs to be on winning back that space that we have given over to cars in recent years.

In the Bill we are going to look at the opportunity for local authorities to trial these road allocation spaces. In devising the Covid mobility measures we looked straight away at the allocation of footpath space to tables and chairs. If we expect people to walk on the road, we must ensure it is a safe space. When space is being allocated, we must maintain accessibility at all times. We must consider that. Does Mr. Fulham agree that more spaces need to be allocated to active travel and pedestrians while ensuring that the standards are high to maintain accessibility for all users?

Mr. John Fulham

I accept the principle. To me as a person, use of the shared space and allocation of same is common sense, or uncommon sense, as it may be. Key to all of this is consultation and the inclusion of the voices that need to be heard, which are the voices of people with disabilities, the elderly, those with visual impairments or whomever the audience is.

To go back to the point about opening up after lockdown when we put tables and chairs on footpaths, the question is where we expected people to go. That is a primary example of where opening up after Covid and welcoming the opening up and businesses being able to re-engage and earn their living was not done in consultation. As a disabled person, it felt that we went back 20 years in consultation. What was put in place was not done in consultation. The impact was that everybody - wheelchair users like me, visually impaired people and people with buggies - was discommoded and put out into a space where they should not have been. It is perfectly acceptable in principle, but not the way it was done.

I thank Mr. Fulham. Did Ms Kennedy refer to that as well in her opening statement? I refer to support for the proper road space allocation for users.

Ms Léan Kennedy

Yes. That is a valid point. We need to make sure that it is addressed. We have been losing our pedestrian pathways bit by bit. They have been getting narrower and narrower. Ultimately, what is needed to facilitate people so that they can easily pass each other by on a footpath is to have 2 m, so that, for example, someone using a wheelchair can pass by someone with a guide dog. That is a minimum requirement. We should aim for a wider space than that. We have been losing our space and, as the Deputy described, it has become the case that we are all fighting for a space. That must be looked at. We must also look at how people live in spaces in towns and what is the best way to ensure footpaths, road spaces and cycle lanes are put together side by side so that everyone can move freely and safely pass each other.

In recent times local authorities have tried to increase pedestrianisation on city streets. Cork city is a good example in that 18 streets are now pedestrianised. Street furniture is scattered all across the street and there is no space wide enough for people with disabilities, in particular someone with a guide dog or an assistance dog, to get past the tables and chairs. There are trip hazards everywhere and it has become really dangerous. We must change our thinking and get the planners to change their mindset and look at what we can get that works for everyone. At an absolute minimum, pedestrian pathways must be 2 m in width.

I thank Ms Kennedy. I did notice that in many cases where tables and chairs were put out there was no requirement for a section 254 licence, which would generally put management in place, or else the process was speeded up. I cannot remember. We did see a lot of creep in respect of tables and chairs. I am not sure how often that was done by the establishment or by customers sitting there and moving them to chase the last of the evening sunshine, but it is something we really have to manage. With Covid, we have had an opportunity to experiment with creating outdoor spaces. It was experimental and mistakes were made, but we can improve that incrementally over time and, taking into consideration what Mr. Fulham said, take into account that there must be full consultation with user groups and everybody who needs to use that shared outside space.

I wish to raise the clutter in general on footpaths on bin day when the bin gets dumped right onto the footpath. I see it on most bin days in my area and it drives me bananas. I have written to both waste collection companies in my area. It would take one second longer to put back bins either against the wall or on the roadway and to leave the footpath clear. Why is the footpath always the place that takes the hit in all of this? Car drivers feel they need to leave the roadway clear, so they put two tyres up on the path and take the scarce bit of space there is. Ms Kennedy referred to 2 m, but often it is not 2 m, it is less than that, yet a car parked on the footpath can take half of that away. We have utility boxes and a whole clatter of stuff on pavements that comes from restaurants, cafes, newsagents and shops. There is all manner of stuff and very little of it is licensed. I walked the main shopping street in my town a couple of years ago and I counted an amount of signage and clutter. Everything possible was pushed outside to advertise businesses. I do not mind businesses advertising their wares but they need to do it considerately. I counted approximately 150 pieces of street clutter. When I searched for section 254 licence applications, I could not find an application for any of them. I have tried to chase up on this. It is done under the planning regulations, but it is often granted by a roads section. It is often the case that matters fall between two stools in local authorities. That is something we definitely need to address.

Ms Tinsley referred to speed limits. She suggested a 12 km/h speed limit and a 6 km/h speed limit. Could she please clarify the position? We graduate speed limits for motorised vehicles depending on the size of the carriageway or if it is in an urban centre it might be 30 km/h. Also, if it is a residential area it might be 30 km/h. If it is slightly wider or a regional road there are different speed limits. Is Ms Tinsley suggesting graduated speed limits for the use of scooters, depending on the type of road space or street space that we are in? Senator Boylan referred to European standards. Is Ms Tinsley aware whether there is a speed limit throughout Europe?

Ms June Tinsley

I thank the Deputy for the question. My understanding is that it is common throughout Europe to have a 15 km/h limit. At present the figure in the legislation is 25 km/h with the option for local authorities to reduce it to 20 km/h. Our recommendation is that Ireland should reduce it further to 12 km/h in the interests of safety for both riders and pedestrians.

There is a rationale for reducing it even further to 6 km/h in the more designated zone places outside schools or in clear pedestrianised zones. In our view, it should be prohibited in those areas, but if not, it should at least be 6 km/h limit. The recommendation is that it would be on a graded system depending on the zone.

For use on a cycle path or on a roadway, Ms Tinsley suggests a 15 km/h speed limit for e-scooters.

Ms June Tinsley

We would be recommending 12 km/h on those, but if, for example, it is near a school that has high congestion at a particular time of day it should be reduced to 6 km/h.

However, in no way should it be 6 km/h on footpaths.

Ms June Tinsley


Much of what has been suggested regarding e-scooters not zipping along footpaths at 20 km/h is entirely sensible. I thank Ms Tinsley.

Ms Kennedy raised the issue of tactile paving. Does she believe that the design manual for urban roads and streets, DMURS, is being implemented correctly? Do improvements need to be made to that? Are local authority staff and contractors working on behalf of local authorities implementing DMURS correctly?

Ms Léan Kennedy

No, it is not being implemented correctly. We have been asking for consultation on it. All disability groups should be included. Tactile paving was developed back in 1998 for the sole purpose of ensuring people using wheelchairs and people who are blind and visually impaired would be able to use pedestrian road crossings. The reason for it was that the curb was being flattened to the level of the roadway so that somebody using a wheelchair could pass and cross over a road safely. However, when the footpath is flush with the roadway there is nothing to indicate to a blind person where the road begins and ends. Tactile paving was implemented and a study was successfully conducted to develop the standard for the blister tactile paving that we are all familiar with. Other standards came along, such as having warning paving to warn people when there is a step or when they are approaching externally outside buildings and so on. There are other types of tactile paving.

This has been under review in other countries. For example, the UK Department of Transport has just published a new manual. We are looking at that to see what we can learn and improve for our own design manual. We would be happy make ourselves available to work with the Department to ensure the manual is updated.

Regarding how it is being implemented, local authorities with the best will in the world try to follow it, but mistakes are being made and standards are not being adhered to which is causing issues for people who are blind and visually impaired. In some cities the surface used for the tactile paving is a steel metal-type surface which is very slippy in wet and rainy conditions. It is extremely slippy and hazardous for people who are blind and visually impaired and for all pedestrians. We need to look at what kind of material needs to be used and what the recommendations are.

Warning tactile paving is specifically there to warn people of hazards. It is being implemented haphazardly and it is confusing for blind and visually impaired people. It gives them the wrong message as to what the purpose of the tactile paving is and it is causing big issues for them to orientate themselves safely. It needs to be reviewed and we will make ourselves available to work on that.

Is the biggest challenge the standards that are set out in DMURS or the implementation of those standards by local authorities? Which is the most urgent? If the DMURS were being implemented 100% correctly would it reduce many of the other problems Ms Kennedy mentioned?

Ms Léan Kennedy

Both need to be looked at. It is not being implemented correctly based on the current standards. The DMURS is quite old now. It was developed a few years ago. Using the pedestrianisation of streets as an example we have had during the this pandemic that we have all been working through, the way that our streets are being planned and developed is changing. We need to ensure that the urban manual is updated and comes into line with how town planners are moving. Both need to happen side by side.

Deputy Carey referred to other user groups for consultation. With the advance in electric vehicles - I am talking about e-bikes and e-scooters - it widens the scope for a lot of active travel. It has also given improved access and mobility for people who may have mobility issues. A person can cycle further on an electric bike than on an ordinary bike.

Chairman, are there be other user groups that we might invite in? We also need to look at that aspect. We want to get this right and ensure that when the Bill becomes law it addresses everybody's concerns - the concerns we are hearing today, but also the active travel concerns and road space allocation concerns. Can we also consider that?

My final point relates to on enforcement. In my experience, gardaí are so stretched in respect of other matters that they do not have the scope to deal with enforcement on a daily basis. They can do a sweep of a street when they see it. After hours, when traffic wardens have gone home, people park all over the footpaths. At schools, people believe it acceptable to park any way they want when dropping their children off or picking them up. In a recent article in The Irish Times, churchgoers suggested they should be able to park in active travel spaces because they are going to mass on Sunday morning. All sorts of groups feel that they have a right to park where they wish.

To rely on gardaí for enforcement is too much of a stretch. Local authority engineers are also extremely stretched. It probably just depends on where people live. We need some common courtesy and decency from people to be aware of other vulnerable users and to use that shared space in a manner that does not impact other people. We can all get around if that shared space is used in a courteous manner.

I thank the witnesses for their assistance on this.

We can certainly follow up on that.

I confirm that I am in Leinster House 2000. I wish the committee members and the witnesses a very happy and healthy 2022. I thank the witnesses for their opening statements and for their contributions so far. I have been following the meeting all the way through.

I refer to something the Minister of State, Deputy Hildegarde Naughton, said in the Dáil Chamber when this matter was last discussed. This does not give full context, but it needs to be referenced. She stated that it does not need anything more by law than a bicycle. I know that does not give the context because as others have intimated much regulation will be added here. It is right that our committee is having this more in-depth committee today. I firmly believe that e-scooters will be a positive force in our lives. I love to think that teenagers in particular will be able to travel to events in their lives, including going to friend's houses, the cinema or hurling training and that they can do so independently and safely away from the taxi of mum and dad. While it will be very positive, it needs much more regulation than the pedal bike does.

The entry-level e-scooter that I have been looking at can do an average speed of 24 km/h. New models are constantly coming on the market. One of them is called the RION RE90 hyper scooter. It has a top speed of 120 km/h.

Imagine that. That is the speed cars on the motorway from Limerick to Dublin were doing this morning. Can you imagine someone on an e-scooter keeping up with your speed or possibly passing you out on a motorway? That probably is not even realistic. That may not happen, but we have deal with a spectrum of stuff here. If e-scooters are getting faster, and they are, we need to grasp that in the very beginning and ensure that they are not on the same space as pedestrians and people who have an array of disabilities. We have to keep pedestrians and those who use e-scooters apart and we need to keep both groups safe.

I have met with the NCBI. I had a Zoom meeting with them before Christmas and I have listened to many people on this. I am fully committed. I do not have too many questions because I am fully committed for the argument we are hearing today. I am convinced there should be a sound-emitting device so that we know when one of these vehicles is approaching. The thing with electric cars is that they creep up on you quite silently. It is the same with e-scooters.

There are a few questions I would like to ask. My colleague Deputy Lahart, who is a Deputy here in Dublin, has suggested many times over that there should be some form of geofencing, particularly with the public realm e-scooters. We had a lot of larger groups on to us saying that they want to bring e-scooters into Ireland's towns and cities, but that, in itself, will create various problems. In a city such as Dublin, where we are today, on Grafton Street, for example, you would want some way of predicting those on e-scooters coming along that pedestrian street and integrating with pedestrians. That is my first question, in particular, for Mr. Fulham. Does he believe that there is a role for some form of geofencing to ensure that e-scooters, particularly public realm e-scooters, stay out of certain spaces?

Mr. John Fulham

I thank the Deputy. There is a role for technology. We referred to geofencing earlier on. It is the ability for technology to limit or prohibit the use of e-scooters through share scheme providers in certain areas. Notwithstanding, as I say all the time, that technology is not a silver bullet, and there are gaps and flaws, as previously referred to by Ms Tinsley, in relation to geofencing, as part of the solution I believe it can be there but it still does not address the gap of the privately owned e-scooters that do not have that technology on them.

That is good to hear. We all saw that "Prime Time" special a few weeks ago on e-scooters. It was screened a few weeks before Christmas. A lot of these e-scooters have a restricter on them that inhibits the speed one can travel at. As the witnesses may recall, it was shown on "Prime Time" that a few clips of wire can be used to reset that restricter and enable those scooters to do much higher speeds. We need future-proofing legislation that would cater not only for the first iteration of e-scooters but also for the faster ones that will inevitably come subsequently.

I will put the next few questions to Mr. Fulham and Ms Tinsley. The first of them relates to a matter that was touched on by a colleague a few months ago. There is a general specification given to local authorities throughout the country as to the width of footpaths and the widths and lengths of parking spaces. There is one lot of specification and, normally speaking, it works well. When you see a new-build project, we would typically see a 1.8 m wide footpath and it generally allows someone in a wheelchair, pushing a buggy or in a mobility scooter to pass by a pedestrian safely. I have sometimes found that 1.8 m fine in a new-build scenario but it is sometimes prohibitive. In towns such as Ennis, the county town in Clare, the streets are medieval. In many towns around the country, such as Killaloe, County Clare, we have local authorities telling us that the specification is 1.8 m but they cannot fit that in in their area and, therefore, they cannot have a footpath. This happens repeatedly. Normally, the NCBI would tell us that it has to be 1.8 m for safety and for safe passing, but does the NCBI believe that there should be some form of derogation or whatever for local authorities? I would hold the view it is better to have some form of footpath, narrow and all as it might be, in these towns than none. That was the first point.

The second point I wish to make relates to the width of parking spaces in Ireland. I know well a wheelchair user who would say that when you can get to a wheelchair space - that is a problem in itself - there seems to be generally enough separation distance to the left and right of the car to get out of the car, into the wheelchair and move off. If you move elsewhere in the car park, the specification in Ireland is generally that spaces should be 2.5 m wide. That is at significant variance with the United States where the average car parking space is 2.7 m. One will often see someone trying to put a child into a car seat in a car and struggling in a big way not to drop the child and contort himself or herself around car doors to get in. I was wondering if the witnesses have any ideas on that.

Lastly, I cycled again to the Dáil this morning. The Luas rail system is fantastic in Dublin but I have seen many people using e-scooters and, indeed, bicyclists, like myself this morning, encountering difficulties. If you try to cross over those Luas rails and you get the alignment of your wheels wrong, you are jammed on that rail. It will throw you off. It will smash you off the road. We have had scooters, e-scooters and bicycles interfacing with the Luas for many years but there is no signage to warn anybody that your wheel is just wide enough to get stuck in a Luas rail and it will throw you off. The committee should at least write to Dublin City Council that something be done to the Luas rail to provide warning signage along the city.

We certainly can do that. The Deputy might provide the appropriate wording and we can clerk to the committee can send that off. Has the Deputy concluded or does he wish to make any concluding comments?

I have concluded. I merely would ask that Ms Tinsley and Mr. Fulham comment on my questions. There were many questions in terms of the widths, etc. I find that some of these guidelines become more than guidelines. They become overly prescriptive to the point that in practical terms they do not work as well as they were intended to.

I will call Ms Tinsley first.

Ms June Tinsley

I thank Deputy Crowe for the questions. The Deputy is correct. There are clear standards for accessibility on the built environment. Many of them probably need to be updated and reviewed. Some of them are now out of date given the different modes of micro-mobility that are quite common on our streets. NCBI is very engaged with many local authorities in providing submissions to them on ways that they can improve the streetscape. If they are doing a revised townscape or development plan, we will definitely be contributing to that discussion to ensure adherence to these standards. We find that in many instances they are not being fully abided by and as a result there are routes that are becoming inaccessible for people who are blind or have impaired vision. Likewise, if there are changes to routes, for example if routes now have vehicles on them when they previously had pedestrians on them, that can be very disorientating. As the Deputy can imagine, someone who is blind or vision-impaired becomes set in his or her ways with the route that he or she knows because that is where he or she feels confident. When the routes change, it can knock their confidence and limit their ability to get out and about.

The reality is there has to be a footpath in a situation, even if it is of a narrow width. The other side of the coin is, if there is no footpath and we always give way to cars and vehicle access, you are forcing individuals who are not only blind and impaired but also disabled, and also individuals with buggies, or any pedestrian, out on the road which increases the risk of accident or injury or collision with cars and other vehicles. Footpaths have to be provided.

I appreciate that some of our towns are over 1,000 years old and the streetscapes can be challenging in that regard. However, if we want to make Ireland as inclusive as possible, we need to bear in mind the needs of different members of the community and to be cognisant of the challenges that getting out and about poses to them.

I thank Ms Tinsley. If Mr. Fulham has any views on the same questions, I would appreciate them.

Mr. John Fulham

I do. We always have views. In relation to the footpaths, in particular, I would echo what Ms Tinsley is saying. There is a reality here that we have legacy towns. We cannot create footpaths where there is not the space to do so. In focusing on the provision of something rather than nothing, there is an imminent danger of the compromise taking hold as the norm.

We need to look at alternatives. Is the footpath the only way? Through consultation with the people on whom this impacts the solution will, more probably than not, come to mind. There are different specifications throughout different local authorities so there may be an issue to be addressed regarding standardisation. A willingness to engage with people with disabilities is very important.

I am with the Deputy on parking bays. To be quite honest, 2.5 m, 2.7 m or 20 cm will not address the needs of disabled people getting in and out of their cars. The point is that spaces are there and created for the reason that people with limited mobility need to have nearer access to where they need to be. There is a point there. The IWA has a best practice guidelines document in which we mandate best practice rather than minimum compliance. We need to look at what is best practice rather than what is minimum compliance. We often see this in the housing world, which is well beyond the remit of the committee, but is very relevant to building houses and design. The same principle can apply to access. The parking bays are there for that specific reason, but moving the general spaces available to the general public from 2.5 m to 2.7 m will not address the access needs of people who use wheelchairs or have limited mobility. I cannot speak knowledgeably as to whether this would make a significant difference to people with children. I know it would not for me, at least not now because my child is five years old and can get in and out of his own accord. I could not speak beyond that.

I thank Mr. Fulham. That has been very constructive. The guidelines I referred to, as have others, were devised at a time when the Ford Fiesta, which was a small hatchback, was the bestselling car in Ireland. We have very narrow parking spaces set down and prescribed by local authorities when planning permissions are granted and new developments are happening. It is happening all over the country. That does not reflect the needs of society at the moment or the type of cars that people are trying to get in and out of parking spaces.

It would be a great body of work for our committee to at some stage invite Department of Transport officials to examine issues such as footpath widths, widths of car parking spaces, and the ratio of wheelchair spaces to parent-child spaces and regular parking spaces. It would be a great body of work if we were to bring them in for a week or two to consider a revision of some of those figures, although not the document itself, which is quite good. The figures need to reflect everything that Ms Tinsley, Mr. Fulham and members have said today, in addition to everything we see in our local supermarket car parks where people are struggling to get in and out of cars, and are wedged in and cramped up. As a society, people are probably not getting smaller. We are probably all getting a little bigger, as are the cars, but the measurements have not changed one bit and they are restrictive. It would be great if our committee could do some work on that in 2022.

My questions are finished. I again thank all our witnesses. I did not get to all of them, but I have followed them during the meeting. I thank them for everything.

The Deputy's point is duly noted as one we could take up. It would probably also connect with active travel in respect of footpaths and so forth.

I thank all our contributors. I read all their opening statements in advance and have been listening to all of them and to committee members. I am afraid I do not have many new points to bring to the table. I was previously chairman of a transportation strategic policy committee on Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and, therefore, I am familiar with issues such as mirrors, footpath widths, parking and so on. Dundrum Town Centre is very close to me. When it was being built - it was probably opened in 2005 - much bigger car parking spaces, and much bigger everything, were deliberately provided.

What we are talking about today relates to e-scooters, legislation and how e-scooters impact, in particular, on the people represented by the witnesses and the organisations they are involved with. I thank them all for everything they do. I do not think any of us could replace the personal contributions that were made and brought forward by them today. It is very important for us and for anyone involved in drafting the legislation to realise the lived experience of people who are in wheelchairs, who have sight impairment, who are blind and who use guide dogs. That is why the witnesses are here. It is very important we appreciate that a guide dog that has had a bad experience may not want to go back out. People who are using wheelchairs, or who have sight impairment or sight loss, are obviously a little concerned about any new technology, especially technology that I was not aware could go at 120 km/h. Even 20 km/h, 30 km/h or 40 km/h is very high in an environment where people are not expecting it to be.

I picked up on the fact that the witnesses all had very common themes. By all means correct me if I am wrong. They do not want any scooter use on footpaths or any free-for-all in people being able to abandon shared service scooters anywhere and everywhere; there needs to be designated places for picking them up and depositing them. There is also an issue with the speed of scooters and the fact that they need to emit a constant sound, which is something I never thought about before. I appreciate that the witnesses brought that point forward.

In respect of the issue around shared areas, there are very large parks in my own area, such as Marlay Park and Cabinteely Park, in addition to the Phoenix Park, where there would be appropriate scope for shared areas. That is not to say that we can have scooters on every pedestrianised area in Dublin or anywhere else, but scooter use will happen whether any of us like it or not. I was surprised to hear the NCBI figure of 53% of its members suggesting that they had an encounter with a scooter, either a close encounter or whatever. This is at a time when scooters are not even legalised yet and are not supposed to be on the road at all. They are coming and we need to do the very best, from our perspective, to make sure that we can address the concerns. I presume that, over time, as people get more used to them, including those using them, pedestrians and the people the witnesses represent, we will all get a little better at interacting with each other.

Ms Tinsley gave us a list of six points. Will she give us the exact six points she had again? I think I have addressed most of them. It is very important that when we deal with officials regarding this legislation we make sure that those six points are addressed. I would not like to see a situation where scooters being used by 16- or 17-year-olds are prohibited from all public parks and we then find them in other places where they are more vulnerable to cars. There are parks that would have the capacity to absorb usage by pedestrians, those who have a level of sight loss or are in a wheelchair, in addition to other pedestrians and scooter users. Will Ms Tinsley bring back those six points?

Ms June Tinsley

Sure. I will clarify that in our survey it was actually 75% of the respondents who said that they had experienced either a near miss or a collision on a footpath. It is genuinely a concern for them.

This is at a time when scooters are not even legalised yet.

Ms June Tinsley

True. Exactly so. It behoves us all to make sure that the legislation is as robust as possible to ensure the safety of pedestrians. The minimum we think needs to be enshrined in the legislation is a prohibition on footpaths, a reduction of the speed limit, the installation of sound as a safety feature, clear designated parking and a minimum age.

Okay. I appreciate that nobody here, either committee members or any of the witnesses, are necessarily technological experts in how e-scooters work or how they can be geofenced and so on. I think Mr. Fulham referred to geofencing more than anybody else. An operator implementing it can put in rules and so on, but do we know if there is a way of geofencing people who buy a scooter in a shop? Can geofencing be implemented by a local authority or is the technology in the scooter? Is anybody aware of that?

Mr. John Fulham

I suggest that the technology would be in the scooter.

That is one of the challenges as to who would supervise this. It is a question first of who would get the technology into the privately purchased scooter and then who would manage and implement the technology to deliver the oversight of that. If that were to fall on a local authority I do not know how that would be structured. Therein lies the challenge. It is a practical problem with regard to private e-scooter ownership.

There is scope for us to ensure that in the legislation. It is in the interests of these companies hiring scooters out per minute, hour or as some kind of subscription service to be bound by all the rules and they would have to make sure of that because otherwise their licence would be taken off them. The bigger challenge for all of us is how we ensure that people who are using scooters they bought do not abandon them, although maybe they would not want to abandon them anywhere because they might be easily taken away or stolen and used somewhere else. The challenge for us in the legislation is how we deal with people who buy scooters. The geofencing may work for shared scooters and could slow them down, limit their speed and stop them going into pedestrian areas and onto footpaths and so on. It is harder when it comes to privately owned scooters. Do the witnesses have any experience of other cities, or an example of best practice? We seem to have lots of examples of worst practice, such as in Paris, Brussels, Strasbourg and other places. Are there any places where this system seems to have worked better?

Ms June Tinsley

I do not know of any city that has operationalised the geofencing system and where that has worked effectively. There are certainly cities where there are clear designated parking bays. When people become members of a shared scheme they have to use their parking bays or, similarly, they have to send a photo back to the company to verify that they have parked it in an appropriate space at the end of their rental. Those tactics have been used. I am not familiar with whether that requires a geofencing model.

That again applies to the shared system as opposed to private ownership. If somebody buys a scooter and decides to abandon it in the middle of Grafton Street, those tactics will not cover that.

On the speed limit, 12 km/h seems quite low. Maybe it is an appropriate speed. Did that figure come from anywhere? Is there any empirical reason that NCBI chose 12 km/h, rather than 15 km/h, 9 km/h or 20 km/h?

Ms June Tinsley

The rationale was to learn from other countries where the speed limit was originally at approximately 25 km/h and they decided to lower it. Some European countries have chosen 15 km/h or 20 km/h. We wanted to highlight the fact that if riders are not obligated to wear helmets and so on, that increases the risk to them should they collide or fall. The rationale of lowering it again to 6 km/h is in recognition of more congested areas where there would not be scope for free reign of scooters speeding through those very congested areas.

Would Ms Tinsley see 6 km/h as an exception or would it be the norm in an urban built-up area?

Ms June Tinsley

It would depend on the area. For example, as I alluded to earlier, areas outside schools would be 6 km/h zones, whereas on a housing estate the scooters could reach 12 km/h. It would depend on making sure the rider is well lit with high-vis and lights and things like that. The speed feature is not to be taken in isolation. It needs to be considered as part of a suite of things.

That is a very good point as to people having helmets and high-vis and being willing to use that kind of technology and equipment. If somebody is coming into the city centre on a scooter from Blackrock, Stillorgan or Kilmacud and they are going on a road surface, the maximum of 12 km/h seems to be very low for that kind of journey. That is, as opposed to people travelling down Dawson Street or other built-up urban environments where there are Luas trams, buses, heavy goods vehicles and deliveries and so on and such a speed would be more appropriate. A blanket maximum speed of 12 km/h seems incredibly low when we are allowing cars to drive past schools at 30 km/h or even 50 km/h in some cases. We all know the size of cars now. As others have said, a car outside a school would cause an awful lot more damage at 20 km/h or 30 km/h to anybody it hits, whatever about its user, than a scooter. That is not to say scooters should behave wrongly. Of course, they should not but I would like more evidence as to why the 12 km/h limit is good. Maybe there is evidence that it is a good idea and needs to be 12 km/h. Maybe cars should also be driving at 10 km/h or 12 km/h outside schools at school times, or 6 km/h or whatever figure is suggested. That might not be necessary at 11 p.m. on a Saturday when driving past a primary school that has been closed since Friday afternoon but perhaps that should be the case during the opening and closing of schools. Ms Tinsley is saying that some places have chosen a limit of 15 km/h and some have chosen 20 km/h but nowhere has chosen 12 km/h. Is that correct?

Ms June Tinsley

There is nowhere I know of across Europe. Some cities had a limit of 25 km/h and reduced it, and that reduction seems to fluctuate between 15 km/h and 20 km/h. The rationale for the 12 km/h is to put a gold safety standard on Ireland to try to make sure it is appropriately regulated throughout the country.

It is a technology that we are not very used to or familiar with. We are right to be cautious as we introduce it. Over time we will hopefully discover that it is going to bed in relatively well and we will ask why we did not have people on these scooters years ago because they are removing SUVs from a lot of places and helping with parking and visibility. When going past many schools now there are so many SUVs outside that it is very hard to see pedestrians coming out between the cars, let alone trying to negotiate a potential scooter as well.

Do Ms Kennedy or Ms Murphy have any particular take on the speed limit? If there were two or three measures they wanted over everything else, what would those be? I presume the footpath issue would be number one. I ask them to rank the things they would like to see in descending order. I totally get that the thing they want most is for scooters not to be allowed on footpaths. They are almost silent and can sneak up behind people very easily, even on ordinary pedestrians who do not have any issues with mobility, sight or visual impairment. They can be quite scary if they appear behind you. I cycle sometimes and when a scooter comes up in the cycle lane I do not hear it until it is past me. I totally get that. Do any of the witnesses have a hierarchy of provisions that they really want to bed into the legislation, like A over B or B over C?

Ms Léan Kennedy

Our top priority would be absolute restriction of e-scooters on footpaths and any kind of shared spaces, such as dual cycle and walking lanes and pedestrianised streets. The second would be the audio system on e-scooters. It is not just a matter of having a bell on scooters that someone can ring when they are encroaching on someone with a guide dog or using a long cane. There has to be a consistent sound coming from the e-scooter so that people will be able to hear it, wherever they are on the street, if they are in the vicinity of an e-scooter. It is important that there be something on the e-scooter all the time vibrating or emitting a noise that is loud enough to be heard over heavy traffic and so on. Our third priority would be the speed limit because e-scooters are so fast they whizz by. As I explained earlier, guide dogs do not have time to pre-empt the danger or react before an e-scooter comes up.

According to our survey, 53% of members, who are people using a guide dog or assistance dog, have already had encounters or near collisions with people using e-scooters. I know of one assistance dog family who have had two collisions already with an e-scooter. In each case the user has ridden the e-scooter up onto the footpath then back off onto the road, leaving the daughter with autism crying in the street. This is the impact they are having currently. The top speed-----

That is where I got the 53% from as opposed to the 75% that was referenced by Ms Tinsley. I knew that 53% was referenced somewhere. Is any breakdown of that 53% of the encounters involving a footpath available? I am wondering-----

I ask the Senator to conclude, There are others to come in.

-----how many of these interactions we might we be able to get rid of.

Ms Léan Kennedy

Is that question for me?

Ms Kennedy's organisation did the survey, so I am wondering if a breakdown is available. If we absolutely make sure there is never a scooter on a footpath again because it is obviously causing a lot of problems, would that solve one third or two thirds of the problems?

I ask Ms Kennedy to conclude, because there are other contributors to come in and we must finish by 4.30 p.m.

Ms Léan Kennedy

In fairness, the 53% relates to the overall summary of responses from people with guide dogs and assistance dogs who took part in our survey that we undertook very recently. We could go through to the actual responses in depth and come back with a bigger breakdown on how many encounters people have----

Perhaps that information could be sent to the committee. I think it would be useful for us to have. I am trying to see how we can get the best solution quickly. I want the safest system. If we can deal with the footpaths, we can deal with the continuous sound and some of the other issues. I think the speed of 6 km/h in a lot of areas might be a bit difficult.

I ask the Senator to conclude. There are other members who wish to contribute.

I thank the witnesses for all they are doing for their members and for all of us who have friends and colleagues who perhaps have sight loss or a disability. I thank them for their engagement today. I ask them to continue to engage with us as the legislation is passing through the Houses. If there are parts they like, I ask them to let us know, and if there are others they do not like, I ask them to let us know what they feel needs to be done to make the legislation better for all.

I compliment the witnesses for their very thorough, thought-provoking, well-researched and tremendously delivered presentations. I propose that in the context of the presentations made today, there are significant areas of concern regarding the management of-----

I ask Senator Horkan to mute his microphone.

I had my microphone muted. It must be someone else.

It must be someone else. I ask all members to mute their microphones.

Having been here since 1.30 p.m., I am happy to share my time with whoever wants to share time. Given the magnitude of the presentations today and the myriad of issues that have been presented to us around the management, ownership and behaviour of those who use e-scooters, I think that as part of our private meeting this week or next week, we should have a discussion on how we can take forward the presentations made today. It is not acceptable that a letter of acknowledgement is given to people who put forward a very insightful presentation. I have received emails from people who are able-bodied who have complained to me in the context of the illegal manner of e-scooters on footpaths. In one case, a gentleman was involved in a very serious accident with an e-scooter where he had reason to go to the local Garda station following an encounter with an e-scooter rider who followed him, assaulted him, then got back on his scooter and sped off. That case concerned an able-bodied person. Taking the presentation today about our citizens who are visually impaired, have sight loss or are disabled in some capacity, as we heard, they experience very different types of encounters. My best contribution is to ask the members to take today's presentations and to park them in the context of an overarching strong approach by the committee. Quite clearly, the advent of these scooters is one that has been supported by many of us, including the members of this committee, but there are clear difficulties that need to be addressed not just by us, but across Departments and by law enforcement and city and county councils.

I thank our witnesses most sincerely for what has been a very strong presentation and perhaps one of the best presentations we have heard in our committee to date. We have a lot of work to do around the regulation of e-scooters. I will leave it at that.

I wish to add my voice to what has been said. This was a very worthwhile piece of work today. Obviously, there is a huge amount of interaction that needs to happen, particularly between the Department officials, the committee and the organisations represented by the witnesses. We need to come to a solution that is workable.

I reiterate the point I made earlier in relation to a wider submission. I think there has been some conversation on the interventions around the general difficulties that relate to town planning, transport and road infrastructure. I do not need to repeat any of that. As I said, if we could get submissions on that from the organisations represented by the witnesses, it would be worthwhile.

I also believe there is a wider piece of work we have to do. It is probably beyond what Deputy Crowe mentioned when he spoke about dealing with some of these regulations as regards width, etc. Again, that work would not just be for our committee. The issues relating to transport companies are within the remit of this committee. There are some of the rules that relate to local authorities and certain things will relate to building. In fairness, the issue of primary medical certificates has been dealt with. It is an obvious issue that has affected a substantial number of people with disabilities who are not able to get what they should be able to get in the area of transport. Beyond that, I know, as I am sure many others do, that there is an issue with disability housing, whether it is dealing with a local authority, or the difficulties around housing adaptation grants. There are parents dealing with children with severe disabilities. Sometimes they have changed the nature of the type of work they have to do. They may be a carer, which means they have less money coming in. An adaptation grant is not going to cut it in the context of what needs done. It is about bridging that gap.

I know I have outlined multiple issues, but I think on some level we need to start a serious piece of work in addressing them. That is more of a commentary than a question. Perhaps some of the witnesses may wish to comment on that.

I will ask Mr. Fulham, Ms Kennedy and Ms Tinsley to give their concluding remarks. Ms Murphy had to leave the meeting. She told us previously her time was limited. In terms of what we can do practically, the witnesses are very familiar with the legislation. For us, as a committee, we were, to say the least, dissatisfied the legislation did not cover e-scooters. A lot of it will only come to the fore when the legislation is published. We will only get down to business when it comes to Committee Stage. There is a window of opportunity between now and Committee Stage. There must be serious active engagement between the Department of Transport, the Minister, Deputy Ryan, the Minister of State, Deputy Naughton, and the organisations represented by the witnesses. There is no substitute for accounts of personal experiences.

All the witnesses have practical stories to tell. We could not understand what they are going through. At the end of the day, it has a significant practical impact on their daily lives. Obviously, anything to do with active travel is to be welcomed, but if we are to bring in e-scooters we must get it right. Mr. Fulham referred to best practice. Best practice must be underpinned by robust legislation.

What we will do as a committee is consider the witnesses submissions again. In essence, we will be writing to, and are sending out a strong message today, the Department of Transport and the Ministers to meet with your good selves immediately. We will go through how we can get this right in terms of footpaths, speeds and general safety. We cannot have a situation whereby people who are visually impaired, on their own or with a guide dog, or people who are disabled feel threatened as a result of a measure that has been introduced that should be a positive measure. The witnesses' submission was sent to the Department in early November. On foot of our meeting today, perhaps the witnesses will collectively come together to see if there are further updates they can make to their submission. That should then be sent to us. It should also be sent to the Department. We will look to ensure that they get a meeting with immediate effect. This matter is too important.

We thank the witnesses for coming to this very important meeting. Starting with Mr. Fulham, then Ms Kennedy and Ms Tinsley, I ask them to provide their concluding remarks and, if they would like, to add to what I have just said. We also thank Ms Murphy for her meaningful contribution.

Mr. John Fulham

It has been a very interesting meeting, listening to everybody and the various inputs. I again reiterate my thanks on behalf of the Irish Wheelchair Association for the opportunity to talk to the committee. I refer to what I said earlier on. People with disabilities are not vulnerable. The constructs of the society around us is what makes us vulnerable. We welcome an opportunity to work with the committee and the Department to ensure we put in place the correct mechanisms to protect people who use those footpaths and shared spaces. We look forward to that interaction.

We will let the witnesses know and try to give them plenty of notice of when this matter comes before the committee again.

Ms Léan Kennedy

I wholeheartedly thank the committee for listening to our opening statements and for looking at our position paper. On behalf of Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind and our clients who are blind or vision impaired and families of children with autism, we are happy to have the opportunity to speak with members and we are encouraged by the reaction we are getting today. The committee has listened to us thoroughly and came back with concrete critical questions so that we can have an open discussion on it. I am very invigorated and look forward to us progressing this. Let us not leave it at this meeting. Let us look forward and progress this as quickly as possible to ensure the Bill is amended to ensure the needs of people with disabilities are included and incorporated. We understand that e-scooter usage is happening. We must be sure of the ultimates that need to be put into the Bill so that their use does not inhibit or prohibit people with disabilities, particularly people who are blind or visually impaired with a guide dog or a long cane, and families of children with autism getting out and about safely. As I said earlier, we have been compromising for a number of years and pulling back on situations such as curbs being removed to facilitate traffic-calming measures and so on. We now need to ensure we step forward and do not compromise to the extent that people feel they cannot go out and about anymore. I thank the committee and look forward to future engagement on this matter.

Has Ms Tinsley or the groups collectively interacted with their sister-type organisations around the world that must have encountered this in the context of the introduction of e-scooter legislation. If the groups have learned from the experiences of others, that could feed into an updated submission.

Ms June Tinsley

That is a fair point. Yes, we have been in touch the Royal National Institute of Blind People, RNIB, our equivalent organisation in the UK and it is something we can gain further alliance on to make sure the submission we resubmit is as updated as possible based on the experiences of our sister organisations across Europe and beyond. I am sure the IWA will do likewise.

I wish to conclude by thanking the committee for a constructive meeting. I firmly believe there is a clear agenda, which we asked the committee to follow with us, so that minimum sets of safety standards will be enshrined in the legislation. By doing that, it ensures there will be enforcement and shared-ownership schemes, people at private-owner level, throughout local authorities and gardaí can follow clear guidelines that are set out in legislation. I wish to reiterate those measures again. They include: a clear prohibition of the use of e-scooters on footpaths; the installation of a sound system; clear designated parking bays and infrastructure; a reduction in the speed limit; and the introduction of the minimum-age requirements. I genuinely look forward to working with the committee again and am happy to work further with the Department on this. We will resubmit our submission very shortly.

In terms of process, we will await the witnesses updated submission. We will then follow up immediately with the Department. We will look at the specific issues raised by the witnesses and Senator Buttimer. We will consider that at our private meeting. Two or three months have elapsed. I would like the witnesses to build precedent and experiences from elsewhere into their submission. Other countries that have introduced legislation have had to change a lot of the system to deal with the flaws in it in terms of dealing with people with disabilities. If they could incorporate that into their submission, we would look for an immediate meeting for them with the Department and the Ministers. We will interact with the witnesses on a continual basis regarding the legislation that is coming before us. We will be doing a substantive body of work on Committee Stage on this legislation.

With that, on behalf of all the members, I thank Mr. Fulham, Mr. O'Mahony, Ms Kennedy, Ms Fitzpatrick, Ms Tinsley and Ms Murphy for attending and engaging in such thorough fashion with our committee. We look forward to our continued debate.

The joint committee adjourned at 4.28 p.m. until 1.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 26 January 2022.