Something quite remarkable has happened. Across both European elections and local elections, The Green Party has gained substantial ground. The reason is simple. We’re killing our planet and not doing enough to try and heal it. It’s being called the green wave on Twitter, a wave that’s hitting with such impact An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had no choice but to outline his own party’s green plans:
I want to congratulate the Greens on a very good election. It’s a very clear message from the public that they want us to do more on climate action – and we’ve got that message. That’s going to require lots of changes on individual level, community level and Govt level.
— Leo Varadkar (@LeoVaradkar) May 25, 2019
This election has been about Brexit & Climate Action. @FineGael has won the popular vote in the European Elections, our vote is up in all 3 constituencies. In the Locals, the results are mixed but if we increase our seats we’ll be the first Party in Govt to do so in 20 years.
— Leo Varadkar (@LeoVaradkar) May 25, 2019
Great to see, but my first reaction was, huh? An Taoiseach’s own Minister for Transport is far from filling members of the eRide community with confidence over the future of these environmentally friendly, green modes of personal transport.
What Are eRides? Much More Than Electric Scooters
Electric scooters have been making the headlines over the past few months. The Gardai started seizing scooters, claiming people were driving uninsured despite many believing you could not classify electric scooters as MPVs at all. But there’s a lot more to eRides than just electric scooters. I’ve gone along to an eRide meetup which has grown to a community of over 200 members ranging from enthusiasts to everyday commuters. Within this community, there is a majority of electric scooter riders but there’s also a huge number of members who ride other eRides.
Electric bikes or eBikes are everywhere, they’re just really discreet. Electric bikes often look just like regular bikes with a motor squirrelled away somewhere and a battery pack to boot. Some eBikes assist the rider on their journey, others, once started, do all the work. The most important thing with eBikes is just how small the learning curve is. It’s as simple as, well, riding a bike.
On top of all the usual benefits, you can also get electric bicycles on the Bike to Work scheme.
Electric unicycles are single wheel personal electric vehicles. These devices are self-balancing with two footplates where the user stands. To control speed, direction and braking the rider leans either left or right, forward or backwards.
To see someone going by on one of these nearly always causes a double take. They are mad vehicles, but once you get used to them, they are a very practical mode of transport.
Electric unicycles offer most of the benefits that electric scooters do. Some will offer greater range and speed, but of course, they do have a bigger learning curve. Electric unicycles are also even more convenient for people breaking up commutes with public transport given the size of these eRides.
Until electric scooters came along, electric skateboards probably got the most attention. A lot of that was down to Casey Neistat and his undying love for Boosted Board.
Electric skateboards kind of fall between scooters and electric unicycles. You have the board for your feet, just like a scooter, but it leaves your hands free, just like a unicycle. Though it’s worth noting that you do need to carry a controller in your hand.
What is the Government’s Stance on eRides?
The most public voice on eRides in Government is the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross. I should point out he’s a reluctant voice on eRides and to date has really only discussed electric scooters when pressed to by fellow politicians such as Noel
Rock. Last year, Mr. Rock raised the growing popularity of electric scooters in the Dail though Minister Ross believed it was a complete non-issue, stating “electric scooters are not subject to roadworthiness testing and it is not envisaged that this position will change in the immediate future”. Unfortunately for the Minister, just a few months later and the use of eRides, in particular, electric scooters, has exploded in Ireland, especially in Dublin. Things have escalated to the point where the Minister has had to commission the Road Safety Authority to conduct a study into the impact of electric scooters joining our roads.
With no sign of the report, the Minister was further pressed on the matter when he finally began to show less than promising indications as to how he would be leaning when it came to eRides. Minister Ross debated with Deputy Rock’s claims that “these scooters will reduce congestion”. Ross outlined his own belief that evidence “shows the opposite of that” and that “those who are proposing to use and are using these particular e-scooters are swapping from bicycles, buses and other means of public transport”.
Backing Up Claims
For me, this was an unusual thing to hear. Not just because it didn’t feel like it could be true, but after following this story so closely for so long, I had never heard of such research. It didn’t feel right to Jean Jose Garcia Monila either, organiser of the eRide community meetup in Dublin. Jean challenged Minister Ross via social media, but it appears to have fallen on deaf ears with no reply to date:
— Jean Jose Garcia Molina (@Jean_eRide) May 22, 2019
Without a reply, but also having a community of eRider users to hand, Jean set about validating what the Minister said and surveyed members as to which modes of transport they used before they switched to eRides.
Considering the Minister is leaning so heavily on this impending RSA report to make a decision on electric scooters, he’s been very slow to show which research supports his claim that eRide users not really taking from congestion at all. To further undermine the Minister statement, Jean’s survey shows that of the 81 eRide users surveyed, 66% have switched from either a car, motorbike or similar. Just 23% of personal electric vehicle users have switched from public transport.
What’s Next for eRides?
This is the big question? What’s actually going to happen next? In the build-up to the local elections, I asked several politicians what their stance would be on electric scooters should they get elected. Michael Pidgeon is a newly elected Green councillor for my area and he highlighted the benefits of electric scooters, benefits which can easily be transferred to eRides in general.
I've had a few questions on the spread of electric scooters on Dublin. It's not a Council issue, but from my point of view they reduce noise, congestion and pollution.
A few principles for #escooter regulation which I think would be smart: (1/5)
— Michael Pidgeon (@Pidge) April 22, 2019
This has gotten me thinking. As the Taoiseach congratulated The Green Party on their success, he’s left himself in a position where his Minister for Transport regulating against electric scooters and eRides would be a massive own goal. eRides tick nearly every box when it comes to environmental goals. One would hope that the green wave is carrying with it fair and logical legislation in favour of personal electric vehicles.
Of course, politics doesn’t always make sense and logical things don’t always happen. Minister Ross has promised the RSA report will be here in the next few weeks. The time of kicking the can down the road is coming to a close. We’ll have our answer soon and we can only hope it’s the answer that makes the most sense for greener commutes in Dublin.
We’ve reached out to both the Office of the Taoiseach and the Minister for Transport seeking an update on the Government’s position on eRides along with seeking a source for the Minister’s claims.