The Irish Times view on e-scooter legalisation: A catch-up exercise

A two-month consultation process will gauge public’s views on electric scooters

The Department of Transport is to embark on a two-month consultation process to gauge the public’s views on the legalisation of electric scooters and the type of safety and other regulations that may be needed in future. It’s something of a catch-up exercise because, over the past few years, e-scooter use has grown dramatically in spite of official resistance and the department’s view that they are illegal under road safety legislation.

As for taxation, insurance and licensing, the department will not pronounce on these fundamental issues until the outcome of the public consultation process becomes known

A report commissioned by the Road Safety Authority (RSA) on e-scooter use in other EU countries found differing regulations and poor standards of enforcement. It advised that a ban on "powered transporters" would be both impractical and counter-intuitive before recommending a cautious roll-out of the new machines, based on safety considerations. Designed to accommodate "future device types", legislation covering all powered transporters could also resolve long-standing disagreements over the legality of power-assisted mobility aids for disabled people.

Companies have invested in this new mode of transport and are actively promoting it in cities across the world. Rental schemes created problems in some cities and have been banned in others. The RSA favours a clear classification of these transporters, based on power and speed limits, and advises that users should be “encouraged” to wear helmets. As for taxation, insurance and licensing, the department will not pronounce on these fundamental issues until the outcome of the public consultation process becomes known.

At present, e-scooters are illegal and, if used on a public pavement, may attract an on-the-spot fine of €60 and a single penalty point. The Garda Síochána has expressed concern about their use on safety grounds.

E-scooters may turn out to be a passing fad, particularly if the sector is heavily regulated. But as a disruptive industry, it offers a cheap, stylish, low-carbon means of commuting. With regulation and self-discipline, it could be a useful addition to urban life in Ireland.