Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan and Minister of State with special responsibility for road safety Jack Chambers have welcomed the signing into law of the Road Traffic and Roads Act 2023 by President Michael D. Higgins.
This Act is a wide-ranging and significant piece of legislation that delivers on key commitments in the Programme for Government and reflects the many new ways people are choosing to travel today. One clear example is the use of e-scooters and e-bikes which are now commonplace, when a few years ago these modes of transport did not exist.
This Act will modernise and future-proof Ireland’s regulatory system to ensure that we can adapt to new technologies as they continue to emerge. Critically, it will improve road safety for everyone by balancing the uptake of the new forms of mobility with the needs and safety of other road users like pedestrians or pedal-bikers.
One of the most significant provisions in the Act is the resolution of legal barriers to e-scooters. E-scooters, while a regular part of our streetscape, are not yet legal to use on public roads. This Act introduces a new class of vehicle called Personal Powered Transporters (PPTs). Regulations can now be commenced to classify e-scooters as PPTs, allowing the Minister to specify appropriate power, speed and weight values, along with other technical and usage requirements for e-scooters. Until the regulations are in place, e-scooters will remain illegal for use on public roads. Once the regulations are in place, those that do not comply with them will be illegal to be used on public roads.
The technical e-scooter regulations must, under EU law, be notified to the European Commission for review, to ensure that they comply with Single Market rules before they come into effect (this is known as the “TRIS” process). This process takes a minimum of 12 weeks. When the TRIS process is successfully concluded, the regulations can be introduced. This will likely be in Q4 of 2023. Compliant e-scooters may then be used on public roads.
The Act will also put e-bikes on a legal footing. E-bikes with a maximum power output of 250W and a motor cut-off speed of 25km/hr will be treated as bicycles under Irish law. E-bikes that can go faster than 25km/hr or have a power output greater than 250W, and those that can operate without pedalling will now be classified as an e-moped. Under the new categorisation, e-mopeds will be seen as motorised vehicles which will require a licence, registration, tax and insurance to be used on Irish roads.
The new rules for e-mopeds will come into effect once the administrative arrangements for registration, driver testing, driver licensing and taxation are in place, which is expected to be in Q1 2024. Owners of e-mopeds will not need to make any changes yet and can continue to legally use their e-moped like a pedal cycle or e-bike until then.
Commenting on the Act, Minister Ryan said, “I am very pleased that this substantial Act has been enacted into law. It will make our roads safer for all road users and give legal certainty to those who are choosing to get around on new forms of mobility. Importantly, these provisions will help encourage more people to choose new convenient ways to travel that help them avoid time-wasting congestion and gridlock. In doing so, they will contribute to freeing up road space, which in turn means that we can allocate more space to provide improved, faster and more frequent public transport and walking and cycling infrastructure.”
“This Act also means that the roll-out of BusConnects can continue to advance as new and essential powers are introduced to relevant authorities for the delivery of core bus corridors. We know even over the past year that when public transport is put in place people are flocking to it. Public transport and walking and cycling numbers are only going one way. This new Act will be a springboard for even greater transformation of our streetscapes, our walking and cycling infrastructure and ultimately our environments.”
Minister Chambers said, “as Minister with special responsibility for road safety, I welcome the many aspects of the Road Traffic and Roads Act which will improve safety on Irish roads. The misuse of scramblers, quad bikes and similar vehicles has been a recurrent issue in our society and these measures will allow us to regulate their use in spaces such as public parks, beaches and other public land. An Garda Síochána will now be allowed to seize these vehicles when they are used in a manner that puts members of the public at risk.”
“Further increasing road safety will be the introduction variable speed limits on the M50. New powers will be given to Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) to manage traffic better and make it safer for its users. These measures are also supported by the completion of the motor insurance database to protect law abiding citizens from uninsured drivers.”
Other key provisions within the Act include:
- New powers for An Garda Síochána to seize and dispose of scramblers and other vehicles used dangerously whether at the scene or where the vehicle is kept. It will also be an offence to drive these vehicles dangerously on all terrain and make it possible to prosecute wherever dangerous driving takes place.
- Providing for the introduction of variable speed limits in Ireland and specifically the M50 in the first instance. This will allow variable speed limits to be enforceable.
- Providing for a framework to allow for regulated use of CCTV cameras and other data-gathering devices by local authorities and Transport Infrastructure Ireland on the public road network.
- Provisions to support the National Transport Authority’s planning application for the core bus corridors to provide for the continued roll-out of BusConnects infrastructure.