If you follow me on Twitter, I don’t need to tell you that I’m a big advocate of electric scooters in Ireland. While they are a green mode of transport that can whizz by rush hour traffic in congested cities like Dublin, they do find themselves in a legal grey area. Today, The Irish Times published an article which finally provided some insight into a report carried out by the RSA on electric scooters on our roads. Early indications would appear to be positive.
The Legal Grey Area of Electric Scooters
I’ve been using an electric scooter myself since January; the Xiaomi m365. Unfortunately, electric scooters find themselves in a legal grey area. In fact, in recent months Gardai seems to be hardening their stance on these and have begun calling them out as being illegal on our roads, categorising them as mechanically propelled vehicles. The problem is that you cannot insure or tax a scooter and as such they are illegal on our roads.
I know they are hardening their stance, because I was pulled over myself. A member of Garda Traffic pulled me over and informed me my scooter was illegal and that he had been informed to seize them on sight. Because of the grey area this modes of transport find themselves in, I was let go on my way without an offical warning.
It would appear that the government is edging closer to making a decision on electric scooters on our roads, at least according to today’s article in The Irish Times.
The RSA Report on Electric Scooters
While details of the report have yet to be seen publically, it’s believed that the government-commissioned report will recommend that electric scooters be made legal on our roads. After reviewing how scooters have been handled in other countries, the report is also believed to have highlighted significant safety concerns with these devices too.
In The Irish Times article, a source with close knowledge of the report said the findings were incredibly favourable towards electric scooters being allowed on Irish roads. They also highlighted that the report found it would be crucial for strict conditions around licensing, speed restrictions and visibility.
The Next Steps for Electric Scooter Legalisation
So what happens next? The Minister for Transport is expected to announce a two-month public consultation process starting on September 1st, concluding on October 31st. I myself am hoping to participate in this process.
It’s expected that people from all walks of life will feed into this process, including the Gardai, who according to the Irish Times article, are not best pleased with scooters on our roads. Frankly, I’m not sure where this is coming from and I’m not entirely convinced that it’s the wider Gardai that are all that bothered. Instead, it could be some top brass in Traffic which specifically dislikes electric scooters. But I’ll caveat that as being speculation at best.
What I Hope To See From Scooter Legislation
There are several things I’m hoping to see emerge from scooter legislation that I plan to bring forward to the public consultation.
1. Wider Personal Electric Vehicles
One important thing that needs to be addressed is the fact there’s more than just scooters on our roads. Personal electric vehicles includes electric scooters, skateboards, unicycles, bikes and one-wheels to name but a few.
Each will need specific laws to be addressed around speeds etc.
2. Speed Limits
I’m very much in favour of speed limits for all erides. For electric scooters, my biggest fear is that a really low-speed limit will emerge. This isn’t because I’m a speed demon, but instead because I’m into safety. Driving 50kmph on the motorway is dangerous and similarly, being limited to a low speed can be dangerous when you run out of bike-lane.
For me, 30kmph is the sweet spot for scooters anyway. My reasoning behind that is very practical. I often travel comfortably at 25kmph – the limit of my Xiaomi m365. Some might want a little more, but at 25kmph I can travel at the speed of an average cyclist. I will highlight that I’m overtaken by cyclists more often than I overtake cyclists.
3. Sensible Visibility Rules
It’s all well and good saying we need visibility rules, but these are not clear cut. There’s no need to make hivis mandatory as many studies show these can have negative impacts on cyclists.
However, lights should be a legal requirement, both on front and back.
4. Location Location
Electric scooters must be allowed to use both roads and bicycle lanes. I’ve discussed this with many cyclists and it’s an extreme minority who say electric scooters in bike lanes bother them. The general consensus is, “I’d rather have you on a scooter than facing me in a car”.
5. Shared Scooter Rentals
I’m fairly against the idea of shared electric scooter schemes. These are services like Dublin Bikes and are run by companies like Lime with Free Now also considering an entrance into the space. For me, electric scooters should absolutely be encouraged for private ownership. It’s critical that legislators also cater to shared scooter schemes. If they fail to, Lime and Bird will drop hundreds of scooters on Dublin streets and ruin electric scooter sentiments for private owners.
6. Logical Licensing
I’m not entirely sure what is meant my licensing. Needing a drivers license would be absolutely ridiculous. Requiring to pay road tax, while also leaning towards silly, I can get over. However, this, for me, would start to open a debate around cyclists being needed to do the same.
This last point is critical for me. The reason behind that is simply that scooters should be considered closer to bikes than cars, and any legislation should reflect that.
Like I said, I’m hoping to be involved in the process of bringing electric scooters into law. Keep following the old Goosed.ie machine to see what happens next!