Traffic congestion is a problem in modern city life that seems to get worse as the years pass and commuting populations increase. It is a particular issue in Belfast which was voted as the UK’s most congested city earlier this year, and the 18th most congested city in the world! It’s not surprising that transport modes have become more diverse as people try to outflank one another to get from A to B faster. Pedestrians, cars, buses and trains are joined by motorcycles, mopeds, bicycles, and even Segways in some places. In Northern Ireland, one means of carriage that retains an unusual status from a legal perspective is the Electric Assisted Pedal Cycles or “e-bikes” as they are colloquially known
E-bikes are bicycles with normal pedals assisted by a battery-powered electric motor which generate maximum permitted speeds of 15.5mph in the UK. Their popularity has soared in mainland Europe where cycling infrastructure investment is much greater than in Britain. Halfords in the UK, however, have experienced a 220% increase in sales in 2017. Benefits include cost-effectiveness when compared alternative public transport modes, nil adverse environmental effects and better access for disabled cyclists.
In Northern Ireland the law remains that one must have a moped licence (including theory test) in order to operate an e-bike. You must also pay road tax, register the bike with the DVLA, and have at least third party motor liability insurance to ride an e-bike on cycle paths and permitted roads. Users who fall foul of these requirements could, in theory, may liable to 6 points on their licence or a fine up to £1,000.
Conversely, since 1995 there is no requirement for DVLA registration, motor vehicle insurance (standard cycle policies suffice) or taxation in the rest of the UK . Riders must simply be 14 or over and follow the usual rules for cyclists.
Moves were instigated in 2016 to change in law in NI to reflect the rest of the UK, however this has not been progressed due to collapse of the Stormont Assembly earlier this year. Hopefully the position will change soon to incentivise more people to take up the e-bike and help alleviate our packed transport infrastructure!
If you are a cyclist or motorist who has been involved in any accident or you require assistance in respect of a motoring offence, please contact our experts in these areas to discuss how we can help you.