There has been much debate in recent days in Ireland about new laws designed to make cyclists more compliant with the rules of the road. Introduced by Minister Pascal Donohoe, the law calls for a €40 fine for cyclists who break red lights, travel on footpaths and travel the wrong way up a one-way street.
The restriction on cyclists being on footpaths has been limited though, because it is thought that sometimes, for safety reasons, cyclists need to mount footpaths (for example in school environments). So they have limited that law and handed it over to Garda discretion by creating the offence: “Cyclists driving a pedal cycle without due consideration for others”.
That’s a pretty broad definition, but it still doesn’t cover the E-Skoot in my opinion, and though I’m not a lawyer, I can’t see how anyone could confuse a bicycle with a scooter. At the same time, I don’t want to spend time explaining that to a judge, so it would be much preferable to have a clear definition of what is, and what is not allowed.
Every time I have had a conversation with a Guard or security person about what might or might not be legal on an E-Skoot, the conversation tends to stray to the subject of how much an E-Skoot could help them in their job.
For example, I did a photo-shoot with The Sunday Independent in Trinity College and when the photographer and I had finished and were walking away, a breathless security guard came up to us complaining that we had used footpaths designed for the disabled.
Now, I hate people who use disabled facilities, so naturally, I apologised several times and cited the fact that there weren’t any signs to let me know that these footpaths were for disabled users only.
But the more I apologised, the more the security guard talked about how useful an E-Skoot would be for him. It would allow him to reach any part of the campus within minutes, and given how breathless he was after a fast walk, his only other alternative was fairly slowly on foot.
Guards also have a glint in their eye when you chat with them about the E-Skoot. They see the possibilities for themselves, which becomes the conversation, and that prevents me from having a proper discussion on what is allowed and what is not. I guess it’s going to come down to the individual Guard and the situation.
Which is a pity. When new technology like this comes along some people adapt to it straight away, while others are more cautious. Despite the talk from the Irish government about it being pro-technology and start-ups, when it comes to practical examples, they tend to show their natural conservatism.
We’ll see. Since there are only a couple of E-Skoots in the country, there is no established law of any kind on their use. To my knowledge, the company that markets the E-Skoot in Ireland hasn’t had any discussions with any government body on the legal position of the E-Skoot, other than confirming that they can be sold here. The company suggests that one should use cycle paths but that doesn’t necessarily mean that one couldn’t legally use a footpath.
And there might be a very good reason for that. The E-Skoot can travel very slowly (at a slow walking pace) without being unstable. Neither are you on a height where you could potentially ‘fall’ on someone. I have traveled down Grafton street on a busy day and not encountered any of the difficulties I would have had on a bike. But none of this is expressly described in Irish law, at least yet.
And that might take until a time when E-Skoots are a commonplace in our streets. I suppose the only answer is to keep going until someone tells me to stop!