I am sharing my time with Deputy Carey.
I appreciate the opportunity to contribute to this important legislation. An awful lot of work has gone into it in advance of this Stage. There has been considerable discussion. I would like to refer to numerous aspects of the Bill that I feel are vital to the national discourse but also to my constituency, Dublin Rathdown. I will reflect on two or three.
The first aspect concerns the Bill's proposal to legislate for both e-scooters and e-bikes. This is an extremely welcome initiative and one that puts Ireland on par with many other EU member states. Already, we see many e-bikes and e-scooters in operation around the country, particularly in Dublin and its environs. They offer a great deal to society by encouraging people to get out of their cars and to be more flexible in meeting their mobility needs. It is important that they be legislated for correctly. This is why this legislation is so welcome.
I commend former Deputy Noel Rock, current Deputies Alan Farrell and John Lahart, and Opposition Deputies who have pursued this legislation through Private Members' business and have repeatedly called for clarification. Legislating for e-scooters and e-bikes provides a great opportunity, particularly when it comes to the initiative of ride-sharing. I am aware that over 20 companies are prepared to start an e-scooter sharing scheme in Dublin city. We are all aware of Dublinbikes and the various iterations that have followed, including GoCar and electric car sharing. This certainly needs to be accelerated. It would be laudable if it were pursued following our enactment of this legislation.
I have a modest concern about the Bill, however. Perhaps the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, could consider it on a later Stage. While I welcome the proposed speed limit of 25 km/h, which is eminently sensible, the area that incorporates my constituency, Dublin Rathdown, and the Minister's former constituency, Dublin South, is extremely hilly. For people commuting out of the city centre to Tibradden or Glencullen, the speed limit might not be a huge issue, but the power limits provided in the Bill would be. The wattage limit in the UK is 500 W. In France it is uncapped. In Germany it is 500 W. In Norway it is uncapped. In Spain it is 1,000 W. In Italy it is 500 W. The 250 W power limit in this Bill would be extremely restrictive. I am aware that the Minister has already committed to considering this on Committee Stage. The power limit would have a real impact on making e-scooters and e-bikes a viable option beyond a city or town centre. It might be a little parochial for me to think about the Dublin Mountains as I realise this concerns every constituency in the country. It is certainly a matter in the regions. E-scooters and e-bikes offer so many opportunities that we must ensure they are as accessible as possible and a realistic option for many. They move to a wider scale the benefits that we already see in so many aspects of commuting life. They would be extremely welcome.
I am very pleased to see in the legislation efforts to deal with the off-road use of scramblers and quads. This has bedevilled my constituency for years. I am sure the Minister will remember certain green spaces and football spaces in Churchtown and Dundrum that were absolutely ruined. Deputy Lahart has been very outspoken about this issue. He joined me in respect of fundraising efforts for Tallaght Rugby Club, which had its pitches absolutely ruined by quads and scramblers not so long ago. It is a real blight on so many communities so seeing it dealt with in legislation is extremely welcome.
The penultimate area I would like to address is the delivery of BusConnects. Depending where you live in Dublin, BusConnects has been sought after or has given rise to concerns. Many people are simply confused about it because there have been so many changes and campaigns about it. We all are aware that a durable bus network in Dublin is vital and that it needs to be as simple and progressive as possible. While it is great to see advances in the form of light rail and trams, the bus is still the most used and reliable form of public transport across the capital city. It is the one I grew up using and probably the one I will continue to use most, even though the Luas is a relatively accessible walk away.
I have raised the issue of driving tests several times with the Minister throughout the pandemic, and I also raised it as a Senator with the Minister's predecessor before the pandemic. I am referring to addressing the criteria for testers. It is welcome to see 36 additional driving testers hired but it does not take away from the fact that there is a massive backlog in the driving test system. Even today, a front-line worker was on to me as they simply cannot gain access to their workplace in a timely manner because they cannot get an appointment to take their driving test. This has to be resolved with absolute urgency. We have to tackle quite forcefully the 10% no-show rate pertaining to driving tests. In a reply to a parliamentary question last month, the Minister said there are 66,000 people waiting. That is a huge number. It will take four months to clear the backlog at the current rate, which is 4,098 tests per week, without addressing the matter of new drivers being added to the list every day. The latter include new drivers and people who fail their test. What happens if driving instructors must go on sick leave or cannot work for another reason? I ask the Minister to ensure that any new restrictions introduced will not affect the running of the testing service and that capacity will be at the maximum, if not increased, to address this genuine issue that affects society at every level. It is a far bigger issue in more rural constituencies, which do not have access to public transport links of the kind we are so lucky to have in Dublin Rathdown. It is starting to impact every sector of society.
This legislation is extremely welcome. It needs to be passed swiftly through the House but there are issues and concerns I would like the Minister to address on Committee Stage. The sooner we can have people using e-scooters and e-bikes legally and on the road as fully licensed drivers, the better for society and road safety. The legislation bodes well for the near and distant future.