Councillors want electric scooters regulated

A number of Westmeath councillor have called for regulations to be put in place for the use of electric scooters.

Both Cllrs Denis Leonard and Hazel Smyth raised the issue at the most recent meeting of Westmeath County Council’s Planning and Transportation Strategic Policy Committee (SPC).

“Are there any plans in place through the council or through the government to make sure that there are stricter laws around where a scooter can be used and how it can travel?” Cllr Leonard asked.

He said rules of the road need to be drawn up for e-scooters: “We all have rules of the road - motorists and cyclists. Will there be a set of rules that can be enforceable for the e-scooters as well? Because at the end of the day, we have to make sure that all road users are kept equally safe.”

Responding, director of services Barry Kehoe stated that at present, there's no legal mechanism under which e-scooters can be used on a public road.

“There's no means by which somebody can get a driving licence for an e-scooter. They are a mechanically propelled vehicle. Therefore they shouldn't be used on the road at the present time. And as I read it, it's against the law for people to use an e-scooter on the roads at the present time - either on the public road or footpath,” Mr Kehoe stated.

The official went on to explain that the Oireachtas is considering the regulation of this issue: “Draft regulations have been published. And certainly we're not in the position to do anything or to comment until those regulations have been finalised by the Oireachtas.”

Cllr Aoife Davitt added her voice to the concern over e-scooters: “It really is a bugbear of mine when you walk down the street in Mullingar,” she said stating that on the footpaths, there are people “whizzing by” on bikes and e-scooters and she has seen a number of near-misses.

“Cyclists should not be on a footpath - especially in our main towns,” she said, asking if signage could be put in place to inform them of this.

“I know that we do have a policy farther out that there are shared footpaths but not actually in the town and we need to make sure that we drive that home,” she said.

Mr Kehoe responded that the Active Travel programme - intended to get people to make greater use of sustainable transport methods such as walking and cycling - is going to have a significant impact over the next couple of years.

“I think it will make a real difference. It will address the issues that Cllr Davitt has raised about the conflict that can arise between pedestrians and cyclists and scooter users and car users,” he said, going on to state that the risk posed by cyclists and scooter users to pedestrians is “absolutely minimal” compared to the risks that are posed to vulnerable road users by car drivers and large vehicle drivers.