I walk along the Liffey towards Silicon Docks every day and something has become more obvious in recent months. Electric scooters are everywhere. I’ve seen a few unfortunate souls scooting along, propelled by manpower because they’d obviously forgot to charge up overnight. But more often than not these electric scooters silently whizz by, propelled by onboard motors powered by onboard batteries. They’re quite a practical mode of transport in a built-up city.
But are they legal? Do you need tax and insurance to ride one? And, aren’t they just toys at the end of the day?
Are Electric Scooters Legal?
Of course they are. Scooters themselves could never be illegal. However, the laws that govern their use have been considered a grey area. The good news is that area isn’t grey at all.
Electric Scooters and the Law in Ireland
The perceived problem with electric scooters comes down to the literal meaning of some words in Irish law, in particular, the confusion arises from the term “mechanically propelled vehicles”.
I’ve been in touch with the Garda Press Office and got them to clarify some issues around electric scooters and the law in Ireland and to clarify what you need to enjoy using these green modes of transport in Ireland.
Are Electric Scooters Mechanically Propelled?
As soon as a mode of transport is classed as mechanically propelled it opens up a world of trouble as drivers must meet requirements laid out in the Road Traffic Acts. First up, the vehicle needs to have:
- audible warning devices (horn, bells)
- rear lighting
By default, you’ll find most of these things on electric scooters, bikes, cars and other modes of transport. Pretty standard stuff. The rider must wear a helmet and also have a driving license, pay tax and, at least, third party insurance.
To make matters worse, it’s illegal to ride a mechanically powered vehicle in bike lanes – a disaster for the electric scooter. However, not all electric scooters are created equal and many do not fall under the classification of “mechanically powered vehicle”.
Why Electric Scooters Are Not Mechanically Powered Vehicles
You can see why many people would consider electric scooters to be mechanically propelled given they don’t require input from users to keep going. The electric motor and battery pack looks after that. However, mechanical propulsion doesn’t refer to the perpetual motion of the scooter. Mechanically propelled vehicles are literally driven from a standing start by the electric motor.
I recently got to test out a Xiaomi M365 at Xiaomi’s Dublin launch and got an insight into why these aren’t mechanically propelled.
Welcoming #Xiaomi to Ireland at long last! They arrive in style with three smartphones, fitness wearables and accessories along with audio too. Did we mention they also have a really fun electric scooter too? Full review of the launch: Link in bio #preparetobeafan . . #xiaomioriginal #xiaomim365🛴 #electricscooter #scooter #xiaomicamera #scootergang #redmi #scooterist #scootergirl #scootering #xiaomim365 #xiaomiredminote5 #redmi6 #xiaomim365mijia #smartphones #xiaomim365white #xiaomi #xiaomiyi #scooters #scooterboy #scooterlife #scooterlove #xiaomim365black #smartphone #xiaomim365elx #xiaomiredmi
To get the scooter started, you can’t simply stand on it and press the throttle. No, no. You’ve got to give yourself two big pushes and get up to at least 4 miles per hour. At this point, you press the throttle and the motor kicks in.
many electric scooters are not mechanically propelled vehicles
For this reason alone, many electric scooters are not mechanically propelled vehicles. Or as the Garda Press Office puts it, “this office understands is whether they are powered solely by an electric or mechanical means or assisted, i.e. using human power to initiate movement”.
As such, they don’t need to be taxed and insured, you can ride them in bikes lanes and you don’t need a licence to ride them. Of course, it’s important to point out there are electric scooters which can accelerate from a standing start and are then considered mechanically propelled vehicles. But once you know this key distinction, you can ignore some of the advice that’s out there.
Which Scooter to Buy?
Personally, I have my eye on a Xiaomi M365 electric scooter. Capable of doing 25kmph with a range of 30km it’s perfect for my needs. It also needs that manual start and so sidesteps being classed as a mechanically powered vehicle. You can pick this up from Three Ireland for €449.
You can be sure more of these will appear on the Irish market from a range of stores in the coming months. You can also expect to see the laws become much clearer too.
The Electric Scooter Bill
Fine Gael TD, Noel Rock, published a bill which seeks to remove the grey area surrounding electric scooters. Ultimately, the goal of Rock’s bill is to ensure electric scooters avoid being classified as mechanically propelled. I’d imagine this will extend beyond the initial propulsion, but at least now if you’re considering making a purchase, you know the laws that surround electric scooters.
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