Garda clampdown on ‘contraption’ bikes, e-scooters gets serious

Posted on: May 13th, 2019
Some of the bikes, scooters – call them what you will – sharing cycle lanes in Ireland are getting more exotic. But the Garda is upping the ante.

Anyone cycling in urban areas in Ireland, especially in Dublin, will have noticed an increase in e-bikes, e-scooters and even bicycles modified with petrol engines sharing cycle lanes with them.

However, the variety of these modes of transport sharing bike lanes with cyclists is being clamped down on by the Garda upping the ante.

Bicycles with petrol engines fitted have long been a target of the Garda; with the bikes seized and a number of motoring offences pursued against the cyclist/driver.

In one case in Waterford in recent days when the person onboard such a bike was found to have been drinking, the gardai threw the book at him.

He was arrested and his “contraption”, as gardai called it, was seized.

The man’s arrest was for two offences. Firstly, for drink driving; which is understandable. And secondly, for dangerous driving.

That latter, dangerous driving, charge appears to be new for someone caught on a modified bike.

It comes as gardai and the other road transport agencies are keen to be seen to treat modified bikes and e-scooters as vehicles under the law.

In keeping with the new, hardened, attitude being taken by the authorities, the Road Safety Authority (RSA) has also now made a clear distinction between e-bikes and e-scooters.

Until now, because e-scooters required a push off – or ‘scoot’ – to start a journey on, they were not regarded by the RSA as a mechanically propelled vehicle (MPVs).

That was significant because all MPVs require an NCT, tax, insurance and the driver to have a licence.

However, the RSA has now put that advice aside and said because e-scooters can carry their owner on power alone, they are classed as MPVs under the law.

And the same condition applies to bikes; irrespective of it needing a push start or pedal start from the person on it; if it can then carry the user based on power alone – with no further scooting or pedaling required – then it is classified as an MPV under the law.

“Regardless of the type of bike, or whether it requires an initial push-start the rule is as follows: If it can be powered by mechanical or electrical power alone (ie, it can continue without you pedaling or scooting it) then it is considered to be an MPV,” the RSA advice states.

The new RSA advice on rideables should not impact e-bike owners as the vast majority of models are power-assisted rather than run exclusively by power.

And that need for the rider to keep making a contribution to the bike’s forward motion takes it out of the category of rideables that the RSA, and Department of Transport, now regard as vehicles.

In the short term we can expect to see the Garda running checkpoints on cycle lanes and seizing more rideables.

Longer term, a Government review into rideables is already underway. And that means legislation – either more clearly banning them, or clearly allowing them – should be on the way soon.