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Call to license electric bicycles runs into opposition

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Some of Social Cycles electric bikes (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Dennis Lister III, right, chairman of the Bermuda Road Safety Council, with Martin Weekes, the Assistant Commissioner of Police (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
A mechanic works on one of Social Cycles’ electric bikes. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The Ministry of Transport will be lobbied to bring electrically boosted bicycles under the same regulations as motorcycles, according to the Bermuda Road Safety Council.

Dennis Lister III, chairman of the RSC, repeated calls for the increasingly popular vehicles to be licensed and insured for use on the roads.

The Warwick West MP added: “There will be some resistance to this. But we aim to put safety first.”

Mr Lister said the law should apply to the two- and three-wheeled bikes, which are either electrically propelled or mechanically propelled with a motor under 50 cubic centimetres in size.

But a leading seller of e-bikes said the move was misinformed.

Dexter Swan, the proprietor and manager of Social Cycles on Parsons Road, Pembroke, said: “We’ve heard it said several times that the bikes can go up to 50kph, which is not correct.

“We have been trying to reach out to Mr Lister and to the minister and his technical team to come down here and get educated on e-bikes, test ride them, and see for themselves.”

Mr Swan said his main business had been tours on electronic bikes when tourism was in full swing, but that the pandemic and its shutdown on travel “ripped us apart”.

Most sales of the bikes are to senior citizens, he said, who enjoy the vehicles for exercise.

Mr Swan said the speed on e-bikes was adjustable, but insisted the vehicles could not go faster than pedal cycles.

Helmets for e-bike riders come with indicators and lights connected wirelessly to the bicycle.

Mr Swan said the e-bike tours for visitors already came with insurance, and a licensing requirement would “definitely be an inconvenience”.

He added: “I know they’re not trying to put anyone out of business. I don’t think they’ve thought it all through.”

Martin Weekes, the Assistant Commissioner of Police, said police would be “working closely going forward with Mr Lister and the Road Safety Council, as well as Highways and the Corporations, to look at ways we can do things differently”.

Mr Weekes said: “We get a lot of calls to the police asking for more enforcement – more this, more that. We understand the anxiety some people feel around road traffic and some of the behaviour they see on the roads.”

He emphasised that dangerous driving was the fault of a minority that police are “going to target going forward”.

Two lives have been lost on the roads so far in 2021.

Mr Weekes added: “We are going to look at new ways to do things, new techniques. The use of technology is obviously in there.”

Mr Weekes said some of the island’s existing network of cameras watching the roads had the ability to track speeders, but that police needed the “back office part” to follow up with the processing of footage and traffic tickets.

Mr Lister said the Government’s road safety plan 2018, called Operation Caution, had succeeded in its goal of cutting annual road deaths by a quarter each year.

There were 15 deaths in 2017, 12 in 2018, nine in 2019 and six in 2020.

Mr Lister added: “In these few years, we reduced road traffic fatalities by 50 per cent.”

He said the council supported the installation of speed cameras, but that “any action is solely set by what is in the Budget”.

Asked if he was optimistic at speed cameras getting implemented in 2021, Mr Lister said: “It’s out of my control. We just have to wait and see what might be done behind the scenes to get that up and running.”

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Published January 21, 2021 at 8:18 am (Updated January 21, 2021 at 8:18 am)

Call to license electric bicycles runs into opposition

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