Electric scooters ‘not eligible’ for use on Irish roads

There is no legal grey area, Department of Transport official maintains

An e-scooter near Ballsbridge, Dublin. Photograph: Alan Betson

An e-scooter near Ballsbridge, Dublin. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

E-scooters and similar “powered personal transporters” may not be suitable for Irish roads, because of their “tiny wheels” an Oireachtas transport committee has heard.

E-scooters, Segways, electric skateboards, powered mini-scooters, electric unicycles and non-pedal assisted electric bicycles are “not considered eligible for use on a public road or in a public place”, said Ray O’Leary, assistant secretary at the Department of Transport. “Despite opinions to the contrary, there is no legal grey area,” he told the committee.

Road Safety Authority chief executive Moyagh Murdock told the committee that Christmas shoppers should be aware that electric scooters “are not toys”.

The use of these devices raised not only legislative and legal issues, but practical problems, Mr O’Leary said. The National Transport Authority was “strongly of the view that e-scooters should not be allowed on our roads,” Mr O’Leary said, and had raised concerns about the suitability of road surfaces.

It was a valid concern that allowing e-scooters could put an onus on road authorities to provide road surfaces suitable for “tiny wheels”, he said.

“The wheel size [of e-scooters] creates a vulnerability that does not exist with bicycles,” he said. The department was directing more funding to improving the condition of roads, he added. “We are slowly making our way back to the stage we can maintain existing infrastructure.”

However, he said this was a matter of “asset protection”, and if roads had to be maintained to a standard that would accommodate a “more delicate” device, that would have “resource implications”.

‘People dying’

More than 500 submissions had been made to a public consultation process on the legalisation of e-scooters, and the department would be submitting a report to Minister for Transport Shane Ross on the results in early 2020, along with a recommendation in relation to legislation, Mr O’Leary said.

“Safety is so important. What we do know is people are dying using these in many jurisdictions,” he said.

Ms Murdock said the RSA was recommending a “restrictive approach” to the regulation of e-scooters in relation to the age of users, the providers of the devices and the roads on which they can be used.

A maximum speed of 20km/h should be required, they should not be allowed on footpaths, should be restricted to roads with low speed limits and should not be used by under-16s, she said.

Ms Murdock said she was concerned about the quality of the products being used.

“A concern we would have is that they are not regulated by any standard in any jurisdiction in Europe.” The devices were being imported from “China and other far eastern countries” and “aren’t regulated by any machinery standards”, she said. Due to their design with a long stem they were prone to “natural torques” she said and “could break easily”.

In the run-up to Christmas, people should be aware that e-scooters and similar devices cannot be legally used on the roads, she said, and would not make suitable presents. “At present it is impossible to use these legally on public roads,” she said. “These are not toys, and they have been seized by gardaí.”

Legislation also needed to be considered to give the Garda the necessary powers to enforce the “safe and legal use” of these devices, she said.