The rise of electric bikes and scooters
Over the past few years, the number of electric vehicles on the streets of Ireland has been increasing.
These vehicles aren’t just cars – electric pedal bikes, push scooters, skateboards, and even unicycles are becoming more common each year. Whether you think these are just the latest fad or the next big advancement in green transportation, they have been hard to avoid.
While the numbers of these vehicles are increasing, there has been a lot of confusion about their legality. Specifically, whether it is necessary for the riders to have insurance, tax, and a licence – or whether they can be ridden on the roads in the same way as their non-electric alternatives.
The answer to this comes down to how the vehicle is classified, and whether or not it is considered a mechanically propelled vehicle.
Mechanically Propelled Vehicles
According to the Road Traffic Act, the driver of any mechanically propelled vehicle (MPV) must have a licence, tax, and insurance. The vehicle itself must have brakes, steering, and lights, and cannot be used in cycle lanes. According to the current law, any electric MPV must be fully insured and taxed. That is pretty clear when it comes to traditional transportation such as cars and push bikes, but are electronic bikes and scooters considered MPVs?
To answer this question, the Road Safety Authority (RSA) published a document of FAQs relating to e-bikes, electric assisted bikes, and battery scooters. This document states:
Regardless of the type of bike [or scooter], or whether it requires an initial push start, the rules are:
- If it can be powered by mechanical or electrical power alone (i.e. it can continue without you pedalling or scooting it) then it is considered to be a ‘mechanically propelled vehicle’ (MPV).
- Under Road Traffic law if an MPV is used in a public place it is subject to all of the regulatory controls that apply to other vehicles. Therefore it must be roadworthy, registered, taxed and insured.
- The driver of the vehicle must hold the appropriate driving licence and is obliged to wear a crash helmet.
That means that any bike, scooter or skateboard that can propel itself without continual pushing or pedalling is classed as a mechanically propelled vehicle – and therefore needs insurance.
Confusion over the rules
Despite the RSA’s advice, there is ongoing confusion around the legality of using electric scooters without insurance. Some e-scooter riders and vendors believe that they don’t count as MPVs because they require a manual push-off: the rider must get the scooter up to speed themselves before the motor will kick in.
The public aren’t the only ones in disagreement over scooters. In March, the Department of Transport warned that electric scooter riders could be fined €125, given penalty points, or have their scooter seized if they use it in a public place. However, the justice minister Charlie Flanagan has said that he has an “open mind” about the scooters, positively linking them to his priority of easing traffic in Dublin. The Minister for Transport Shane Ross has asked the RSA to research how other EU member states regulate e-scooters, so that legislation can be clarified and a decision can be made on their safety.
There also seems to be some disagreement within An Garda Siochana about what counts as an MPV. This spring, there was a spate of reports of Gardai seizing and confiscating electric scooters from members of the public. However, a video was also circulated of Gardai letting a man go fine-free after agreeing that his e-scooter wasn’t an MPV because it needed a manual push to get it started.
With the differing opinions between the RSA, government ministers and the Garda Siochana there is understandably a lot of confusion in the market as to where cover can be found and what level of cover can be provided for e-bikes and e-scooters with most insurers avoiding a definitive answer until the government and regulatory bodies come out and confirm what the parameters are more definitively. Most insurers are only willing to offer cover on the e-bikes/e-scooters while they are not in use in a public place and while stored at the home residence with a l only to a limit of €1,500 in many cases. This limit isn’t enough to cover a lot of e-bike’s in the market as they can range from €1,000 up to over €10,000 and broker’s might be left scrambling to find a stand alone solution if a client’s new e-bike is above their existing insurers limits. It is important to ensure that client’s are declaring bikes as e-bikes and making sure they are adequately insured and there are a number of insurers who willing and able to insure these high value bikes by adding them on to an existing or new policy.
The future of the scooter commuter
Despite the RSA’s best efforts at clarity, there is ongoing confusion about the legality of riding e-scooters and e-bikes. And although some riders are having their vehicles confiscated, many more continue to use them in defiance of the law. This March, the Irish Times reported that there were more than 2,000 electric scooters on the streets of Dublin alone.
With such electric vehicles becoming ever more popular, there is every chance that your clients are thinking of purchasing an e-bike or e-scooter – if they don’t own one already. It is important to make sure that they understand whether their vehicle is classed as an MPV, and the insurance implications of that classification.
If the vehicle is considered an MPV, your client should consider including it under their home and contents insurance. E-bikes and e-scooters are expensive investments, and protecting it in this way will help to reduce your clients’ risk if it is damaged or stolen.
To find out more about DUAL Private Client’s home and motor solutions for your mid and high net worth clients (electric or not!), call Chris Wilkinson or any of the team in Dublin on 01 6640001, or email email@example.com.