The Road Traffic Act 1961 defines a mechanically propelled vehicle as a vehicle intended or adapted for propulsion by mechanical means, including a bicycle or tricycle with an attachment for propelling it by mechanical power, whether or not the attachment is being used. It also includes a vehicle the means of propulsion of which is electrical, or partly electrical and partly mechanical.
Escooters and powered skateboards fall into this category, and are therefore considered to be mechanically propelled vehicles. Any users of such vehicles in a public place (as defined in the Road Traffic Act 1961) must have insurance, road tax and a driving licence, with penalties under road traffic laws (including fixed charge notices, penalty points, fines and possible seizure of the vehicle) for not being in compliance with these requirements.
As it is currently not possible to tax or insure escooters or electric skateboards, they are not considered suitable for use in a public place.
Electric bicycles are in a different category to eScooters. Where a bicycle has an electric motor attached which may be used as an alternate means of propulsion, the vehicle is defined as a mechanically propelled vehicle under the Road Traffic Acts whether or not the motor is being used. However, under Article 1 (h) of EU Directive 2002/24/EC E-bikes are defined as “cycles with pedal assistance which are equipped with an auxiliary electric motor having a maximum continuous rated power of 0.25 kW, of which the output is progressively reduced and finally cut off as the vehicle reaches a speed of 25 km/h, or sooner, if the cyclist stops pedalling”. As bikes of this type require continuous effort on the part of the cyclist, they are considered to be pedal cycles – in other words, the engine is not the means of propulsion, but an aid to the user.
Pedal assisted cycles with a maximum continuous rated power of more than 0.25 kW and E-bikes that can be exclusively propelled by the motor are classified in the Directive as low-performance mopeds, i.e. vehicles with pedals, with an auxiliary engine of power not exceeding 1 kW and a maximum design speed not exceeding 25 km/h. Such vehicles are subject to Road Traffic legislation as outlined above, with the user obliged to have tax, insurance and an appropriate driving licence where the vehicle is to be used in a public place.
I have requested the Road Safety Authority to research how escooters and other such vehicles are regulated in other countries, particularly other Member States. I am keen to understand the road safety implications of the use of such vehicles on public roads, especially when interacting with other vehicles.
I will make a decision on whether or not to amend existing legislation when I have received the outcome of the Authority’s research, and not before then. I will need to be satisfied that permitting such vehicles on our roads will not give rise to safety concerns, both for the users themselves and for all other road users including cyclists, pedestrians and motorists.