New legislation could be introduced this week which would allow electric bikes to be used on public roads in Northern Ireland without the need for registration, licensing or insurance.
Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon will bring the new legislation to the Assembly later today (Tuesday).
And, if approved, the changes would take effect from tomorrow (Wednesday), May 13.
At the start of February the Minister announced her intention to bring forward legislation to encourage use of electric bikes by removing the requirement for them to be registered, licensed and insured.
She said she was delighted to bring the legislation to the Assembly today.
Said Minister Mallon: “If affirmed the legislative change will remove the prohibitive barriers and allow electric bikes to be used on public roads.
“This will be an important step to encourage more people regardless of age or physical ability to take up cycling to improve their health and wellbeing which has taken on more importance since the outbreak of COVID-19.
“I hope that the Assembly can support me and send a clear message to the people of Northern Ireland, that we must change the way we live not only in the midst of this crisis, but to also tackle the climate crisis, reshaping our world and opening new opportunities that enhance our communities and our wellbeing.
“As we move towards the recovery phase of this emergency, using electric bikes to travel to work or for recreational purposes would provide an opportunity for people to consider an alternative way to travel or enjoy their daily exercise.
“I recently announced the creation of a Walking and Cycling Champion within my Department and a key role for them will be to ensure that we deliver our commitment to increase the percentage of journeys made by walking and cycling.
“By cutting down on traffic congestion, and reducing air pollution, we will also improve the quality of life for everyone in Northern Ireland. In my Department I’m doing all that I can to protect our communities from the impact of COVID-19, but I’m also looking forward, towards building a better future where people are at the heart of place shaping and spaces are designed to transform lives. Greener, cleaner, healthier and happier people and places must be our aim as we learn to live with this new normal during and after COVID-19.”
Sustrans Interim Director Stephen Martin said: “This new legislation is long overdue and would be a welcome boost for cycling in Northern Ireland.
“Cycling is already being embraced during this pandemic and this would enable many more people to try cycling. E-bikes help more people get out of their cars and to travel in a more green and active way.
“We know e-bikes are particularly appealing to older people, those less able and residents in hillier areas or with long commutes. It is vital this potential development is supported by safe infrastructure for cycling.
“We hope to see the pop-up cycle lanes the Minister referred to last week quickly implemented.”
Newry and Armagh SDLP MLA Justin McNulty also welcomed the delivery of new legislation which he said would bring Northern Ireland into line with the Republic of Ireland.
The added: “This is great news for people right across my constituency. Thanks to Minister Nichola Mallon ebikes from Wednesday will be allowed on public roads without the need for registration or licensing.
“This is a significant step in removing the barriers faced by citizens in the north and will help encourage people to get active whatever their age or physical ability.
“The SDLP has long championed the case for active travel to not only better connect our communities but to deliver the change our environment deserves.
“The SDLP is committed to changing communities and improving lives by leading the way to reduce our carbon emissions and promote better health and wellbeing.
“SDLP Minister Mallon has started us on our journey – and now more than ever – we need to remain on track, transforming our society to ensure we not only get through the covid crisis but build a better future as we look to recovery.”
Sinn Féin MLA Cathal Boylan has also welcomed the move today to make e-bikes more accessible to the public by removing “regulatory burdens” but stressed that the expansion of active travel infrastructure must be pursued.
The Newry and Armagh MLA stated: “E-bikes will help make cycling more attractive to a much wider audience such as those who have to travel longer distances or who couldn’t make their journey on a traditional bike.
“However, there is a wider opportunity at this present moment to really step up our commitment to sustainable transport.
“I welcome the initiative by the minister to appoint a walking and cycling champion however this needs to be followed through with real delivery.
“Cities across the world, Dublin included, have implemented ‘pop up’ cycle lanes as a way to improve safety and social distancing during COVID-19 and it’s time the north joins in.
“Prioritising the uptake of walking and cycling means investing in a sustainable future. It means tackling congestion and air pollution as well as improving public health both physically and mentally.
“Awareness and participation in active travel has grown during the COVID-19 crisis and legislation on e-bikes is to be welcomed in that context.
“Other important legislative responses are required from the Dept for Infrastructure to look at in the context of COVID-19, such as planning permission, and we will continue to hold the Infrastructure Minister to account with regard to decisions and action that needs to be taken.”