In recent years, electric scooters, also known as e-scooters, have become quite popular. You can see the devices in music videos and the streets. E-scooters are electrically motorized versions of conventional scooters. They are commonly referred to as a last-mile urban transportation solution. While these devices have increased in popularity worldwide, the issue of their legality in Ireland is still a concern among many people.
Legalities of electric scooters in Ireland
Ireland currently has a law that electric scooters are not legal for use on public roads. This is primarily because the Ireland government has yet to agree on legislation governing the personal protection gear to be worn, where and when the devices can be ridden, and at what speeds.
You would think that e-scooter riders would be allowed to ride on bike lanes as Dublin is full of them. However, this is also not allowed in Ireland and e-scooters are currently only available for home use. As mentioned before, in Ireland, e-scooters are classified as mechanically propelled vehicles. Also, the laws in the country prohibit the use of mechanically powered vehicles in bike lanes. This is why riding e-scooters on bike lanes is also illegal.
However, this may change soon as a lengthy public consultation was held in the last half of 2019 with the Ireland Road Safety Authority. The consultation featured recommendations on various safeguards like ruder training, licensing, speed, and mandating the use of helmets when riding e-scooters. The Road Safety Authority also recommended a system where e-scooters would only be allowed on specific sectors of public highways instead of getting blanket access to all streets and roads. If these recommendations get implemented, it will help fast track the legalization of electric scooters on public highways.
Classification in Ireland
In Ireland, electric scooters are classified as mechanically propelled vehicles. This means that they must be roadworthy, registered, taxed, and insured. Mechanically driven vehicles also need audible warning devices, brakes, reflectors, headlamps, and other safety accessories. Drivers also need to be licensed, wear protective gear, like helmets, and be sixteen years old or older.
The most significant issue that drivers face is the registration process. In Ireland, to register your scooter, you need to present an EC certificate of Conformity. This document usually comes from the manufacturer. This is a significant issue because manufacturers do not issue any such certificate. The closest thing to this document that you can get is a motorcycle certificate. Therefore, this makes it impossible for riders to register their e-scooters.
So, are they mechanically powered vehicles?
The primary reason why e-scooters are classified as mechanically powered vehicles is that they do not require any input from users to keep them moving. The scooters come with electric motors and battery packs which help make the movements possible. However, there are some differences between the operation of e-scooters and convectional mechanically propelled vehicles.
The primary difference is that mechanically driven cars are independent of human action from the word go, which is not the case with e-scooters. To get an e-scooter started, you have to give yourself two big pushes and get up to about four miles per hour before the electric motor kicks in. With other mechanic propelled vehicles, you have to press a throttle or start button, and the motor kicks in.
For this reason, primarily, e-scooters do not fall in the mechanically propelled vehicle category. This is why people are working towards getting the laws in Ireland to remove e-scooters from this category. If this happens, the rules surrounding the scooters will lighten.
However, the concerns about the e-scooters being able to accelerate from the standing start to the point where the motors kick in are worth considering. You cannot take away from the point that e-scooters still have an engine, even if it does not kick in from the start.
E-scooters laws in Ireland as at 2021
The Ireland Minister of Transport, Eamon Ryan, announced at the beginning of 2021 that the government had approved plans to draw up legislation around the new and increasingly popular transportation modes. These plans will introduce a new vehicle category for e-scooters and e-bikes. The aim is to legalize the use of e-scooters on public roads if they meet the required safety standards.
This legislation will be outlined in the upcoming Road Traffic Bill (miscellaneous provisions). The new law will include distinctions between the different types of e-scooters and remove them from the current category that they are in. According to the Minister of Transport, the government programme is aimed at regulating the use of e-scooters as they are fast becoming a popular form of personal mobility in Ireland and beyond. These regulations will ensure the safety of the ridders and other people around.
It is also worth mentioning that the new laws will bring Ireland in line with other European nations, where e-scooters and different novel transportation modes have been regulated. The e-scooter business will also significantly benefit from the new laws. While these businesses are currently booming, their success is bound to increase with the new laws. However, it remains unclear as to when the new legislation will come into effect. Therefore, until then, you cannot legally ride e-scooters on public roads or highways.
Kindly note that some countries or States do not have any specific laws and regulations on the use of electric scooters. Some also have incomplete regulations. For instance, riders will be allowed to use the scooters in bike lanes. They will also not need to get the scooters licensed or insured. The fact that Ireland is making active steps towards lightening the regulations and setting safety standards for e-scooters is bound to encourage other states to do the same. The increasing attentiveness towards e-scooter regulation laws in Ireland and beyond can be attributed to the increased popularity of the products.