Electric bicycles and the law

 

Sir, – I write in response to Michael J Walsh (October 26th), who claims “[e]lectric bicycles are not exempt from the requirements imposed on other mechanically propelled vehicles by the Road Traffic Act” and that “almost all such bikes are illegally on the roads”.

There is a distinct legal difference between electric bikes that assist the rider and those that do not. If a bicycle has a motor which can be used as an alternate means of propulsion ie can propel the bike without human intervention, it is classified as a mechanically propelled vehicle, even if the motor is inactive, and the rider requires the same documentation as a person driving a car or motorbike.

However, bicycles with pedal assistance which are equipped with an auxiliary electric motor having a maximum continuous rated power of 0,25 kW, of which the output is progressively reduced and finally cut off as the vehicle reaches a speed of 25km/h, or sooner, if the cyclist stops pedalling, are not defined as MPVs and, accordingly, the rider does not require a driver’s licence, tax or insurance.

The vast majority of electric bicycles on the road fall into the latter category and are perfectly legal.

Two other points to note: 1. The bicycle-sharing scheme referred to by Mr Walsh refers to Moby bikes which has an electric bike sharing scheme operating in Dublin. This scheme is licensed by Dublin City Council. 2. The Government has recently increased the bike to work scheme to assist people seeking to purchase electric bikes.

I hope this clarifies any confusion surrounding the purchase and use of electric bicycles. – Yours, etc,

OISÍN CLARKE BL,

The Law Library, Dublin 8.