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Electric bikes considered ‘motorbikes’ on Northern Ireland’s roads, says BA

The Bicycle Association has advised that the law ensuring electric bikes are treated as ordinary cycles in terms of their use on UK roads, doesn’t apply in Northern Ireland.

Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycles (EAPCs), offering powered assistance to a maximum of 25 km/h (15.5 mph) using a motor with a maximum rated power of 250w and with pedals capable of propelling the bike, can be ridden anywhere ordinary cycles can without registration, road tax, a driving licence, insurance or the mandatory use of a crash helmet.

However the BA has today told Pedelecs that: “EAPC regulations which exempt electric bikes from being treated as motorbikes in most of the UK do not apply in Northern Ireland. This could have serious implications for anyone selling e-bikes into that territory.”

The association is issuing advice on the current legal situation as a result of clarification from both the Department for Transport in London, and the Department of Infrastructure in Belfast, who have stated that transport is a devolved matter, with EAPC regulations not carried over into law in Northern Ireland.

The result is that “what is an electric bike in the rest of the UK is still treated as a motorbike when used in Northern Ireland” according to the BA, meaning that an approved motorbike helmet needs to be worn as well the usual mandatory requirements regarding appropriate driving licence, registration, tax and so on.

This advice concerns only the usage of electric bikes and the BA has said they are working with officials in Northern Ireland to align this law with the rest of the UK as soon as possible. With NI’s Cycling Strategy promoting electric bike use, officials are said to be ‘already drafting’ legislation to resolve the issue, but “nothing can be implemented until a new Assembly is in place, and this will be several months away at least.”

While the BA has shared this with Pedelecs in order to advise those riding e-bikes in Northern Ireland of the current official position, the organization is also calling on those selling e-bikes to play their part until legislation is updated:

“Sellers are advised to consider carefully the implications of this. As a minimum, sellers should make customers explicitly and fully aware of their legal obligations, and the possible consequences of using such a bike without registration etc. In the event of an accident they could be found to be riding an unregistered and untaxed motorbike, and riding without an approved helmet. As well as fines they may also receive points on their driving licence. Also, any insurance they may have is likely to be invalidated, leaving them open to potential liabilities to third parties if, for example, they injure someone while riding.”

Officials in Northern Ireland added: “Sellers can advise customers that the Department is working to resolve this issue and will implement legislation to exempt EAPCs from registration and licensing requirements when the NI Assembly has reconvened.”

Since this affects usage law only, BA clarify that type approval laws apply in the same way to Northern Ireland as they do the rest of the UK – namely that type approval is not required for 250w/15.5mph e-bikes, unless they are fitted with a throttle, otherwise known as ‘twist and go’.

The DfT has also updated its own page on e-bike rules with the current position for Northern Ireland.