E-scooters have become a common sight on Irish streets. Quick, convenient and environmentally friendly, they have become the 'last-mile solution' of choice for many commuters. This reflects a global trend, with the market for e-scooters expected to reach $42 billion by 2030.
As the uptake of e-scooters has grown, Irish legislators have been called upon to re-evaluate the existing regulations in this area. An Garda Síochána have clarified that e-scooters fall within the definition of "mechanically propelled vehicles" under the Road Traffic Act 1961, being:
"a vehicle intended or adapted for propulsion by mechanical means, including a bicycle or tricycle with an attachment for propelling it by mechanical power, whether or not the attachment is being used, [and] a vehicle the means of propulsion of which is electrical or partly electrical and partly mechanical."
An Garda Síochána note that accordingly, anyone using an e-scooter in a public place must have insurance, tax and a driving licence and that failure to comply with such requirements could result in a fine, penalty points or seizure of the e-scooter. As it is not possible at present to tax or insure an e-scooter, use of an e-scooter in public leaves users open to these penalties.
The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross, asked the Road Safety Authority (RSA) to prepare a report on how e-scooters and other such vehicles are regulated elsewhere and on possible road safety implications of their use on the roads. The report notes that e-scooters "have potential to reduce traffic congestion, improve air quality, and promote active travel if they are used in the right ways." In developing policy and legislation in this area, the report recommends:
1. agreeing clear terms for vehicle classification; 2. promoting the use of helmets and protective equipment; 3. issuing advisory guidelines for both individual users and users of sharing schemes; 4. promoting the need for safe use amongst the public; 5. implementing minimum safety standards for the vehicles; and 6. further research into safety features and operational guidelines to minimise risk.
Following publication of the report, the Minister announced the launch of a public consultation on e-scooters and other such transport, to conclude on 1 November 2019. This is an opportunity for the public and all interested stakeholders to have their say on what will likely form the basis of future regulation in this area.