Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA
Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan has said laws to restrict the sale of e-scooters to people over the age of 16 would be “unenforceable”, and “bad law”.
The Green Party leader appeared before the Transport Committee to go through a swathe of mostly technical amendments to the Road Traffic and Roads Bill 2021.
Mr Ryan said that section 34 relating to e-scooters and other powered personal transporters (PPTs) should be deleted from the Bill, meaning that it will not be illegal for children to buy e-scooters as had originally been planned.
Explaining the change, Mr Ryan said: “We proposed in section 34 of this Bill to introduce a new section to the 2004 Act restricting the sale and supply of e-scooters to (only) people over 16.
“This measure was made with the intention of reducing the risk of injury to minors, and to reduce the potential for injury caused by minors to pedestrians and other vulnerable road users.
“However, my department has identified several significant implementation challenges.
“There is no suitable mechanism to record PPT supply as vehicles falling into the Category 2 registrations.
“Furthermore, we expect that many purchases will be private, second-hand sales from websites based outside the EU.
“There’s no licence system proposed for those driving an e-scooter and no requirement in Ireland to carry proof of age.”
He said that these factors made the provision “unenforceable” and suggested withdrawing the provision.
Explaining the decision further, Mr Ryan said: “We don’t, in our country, carry identity cards.
“You can’t enforce identification. So the policing of this is the primary reason why it wouldn’t be enforceable. So introducing law which is not enforceable is bad law.”
Green TD Brian Leddin said: “Even having it in the statute book as an offence is a very significant deterrent to supply these PPTS to people under 16.
“And by taking it out, that deterrent is gone, it essentially it sounds like turning a blind eye to it.”
Green TD Steven Matthews raised similar concerns, and said that “cheap” e-scooters may be “aimed at younger age cohorts because they’re more affordable” to young people with less money.
“There’s evidence that a lot of these are being used by very young people in a dangerous fashion.
“It seems to me that it would make sense that it would be an offence to supply them to younger people for very real safety reasons, notwithstanding that it might be something that’s very difficult to police, I think the very fact that it’s in the legislation is a significant deterrent.”
Chair of the committee Kieran O’Donnell said that it was a prominent issue for the public, and said that “it’s not uncommon” that he would see two “very young teenagers” on an e-scooter at the same time, and he feared for their safety.
He asked Mr Ryan to elaborate on the conclusion to remove the provision.
“We do need to ensure we improve road safety,” Mr Ryan said, particularly with an increase in road deaths so far this year, compared to last year.
He added that “there was nothing that we could have introduced” to legislate to stop adults purchasing an e-scooter for their son or daughter to use.
He said the Gardaí currently police the use of e-scooters, but it is “sporadic” because the current law “is not fit for purpose”.
The Road Traffic Bill aims to regulate the use of e-scooters for the first time, recognising a significant increase in their use.
The legislation defines a PPT as having “a maximum design speed of no less than six kilometres per hour and no greater than 25 kilometres per hour”.
The original legislation had provided for PPTs to have an unladen weight not above 55kg, but this has been reduced to 25kg in an amendment by the Minister in order to comply with EU rules.
E-scooters above the 25kg limit will not be legal, the Minister told the committee.