With rental companies ready to deploy fleets of e-scooters on Irish city streets, the Cabinet’s decision to legalise them will now spark a debate over how and where they should be used.
Rental companies are gearing up to launch fleets of e-scooters on Irish streets after the Cabinet moved to strip them of the requirement for motorbike insurance, tax and licencing.
Tier, which describes itself as Europe’s largest e-scooter rental company, says that it wants to launch in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway, Waterford and Louth. In other European markets, it charges €1 to unlock the rental scooter and 15 cents per minute afterwards.
Over a dozen other firms have similarly expressed interest or early plans, including the taxi firm Free Now, Zipp, Bird, Bleeper and Dott.
Under the new rules, a new class of ‘powered personal transporters’ (PPTs) will be created. These will not require the same licensing, insurance or tax considerations as motorbikes, as they are currently classified. E-scooters typically travel at up to 20kph with a range of between 15km and 25km between charges.
“These proposals in the Bill should be seen as part of our wider efforts to encourage alternative forms of mobility, reduce our culture of reliance on the private car and open opportunities for active and healthy travel,” said Transport Minister Eamon Ryan.
However, there are still issues to be clarified in relation to where e-scooters will or won’t be allowed to travel.
While the devices are supported by those advocating less reliance on cars, cyclists and some safety advocates are unhappy about the experience with e-scooters in other European and US cities.
“They’re a nightmare,” said Irish Twitter user Michele Neylon in response to the news. “I live in fear of [them] killing somebody. Adults and teens around here seem to think there’s nobody else on the roads.”
Up until now, e-scooters have not been allowed to use bicycle lanes, with some cyclists regarding them as an unfair incursion on their part of the road.
“I look forward to open warfare in cycle lanes between e-scooter drivers and pedal cyclists,” said Michael Coyle. “They should be treated the same as petrol scooters.”
Some European and US cities have had to restrict trials of e-scooters due to them cluttering footpaths.
However, some of the e-scooter firms say that safety and proper organisation will be a given before launch.
“Tier has been active in Ireland since 2020, listening to the concerns and needs of Irish towns and cities,” said Benjamin Bell, Tier’s director of public policy for Northern Europe. “We are confident that, with this strong legislation approved by Cabinet, we are one step closer to not only legally having e-scooters in Ireland, but also ensuring the country has the safest e-scooter regime in Europe.”
A recent report on 22 escooter injuries treated in Dublin’s Connolly Hospital showed some serious accidents and incidents.
Nearly half had head injuries with over two thirds sustaining fractures. Over one third needed hospital admission.
Most of those treated were in their late 30s or early 40s, using an e-scooter to commute to work.
Only two of the 22 hurt were pedestrians. But the injuries were "quite extensive, complex injuries and even after surgical reconstruction patients had a high risk of post-traumatic arthritis", said consultant orthopaedic surgeon Dr Ciara Fox.
The authors of the report ('An Analysis of E-Scooter Related Trauma'), warned that this might be just a small taste of things to come.
"The burden is relatively small at the minute, but given the high numbers needing surgery, the burden on orthopaedic teams is significant and that is going to increase with their popularity,” said Dr Margaret Grace, a co-author.
Some analysts estimate that there isn’t space in the market for more than two or three e-scooter rental firms. This means that those with first-mover advantage and the pockets to sustain a couple of years of trading at a loss, may win out