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Drink drivers to be banned from use of electric bicycles

Electric bikes are said to be facing new regulations - but the minister has promised a “light touch” (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Drivers banned from the roads for drink driving will be blocked from switching to electronic bikes under changes to the law.

But Lawrence Scott, the transport minister, promised a “light touch” with no new legislation proposed, after fears in the e-bike industry that the Government planned to bring in the same licensing and insurance rules as motorcycles for electric bicycles.

Mr Scott told The Royal Gazette he also planned to underscore that “gypsy cabs” were illegal – and that taxi drivers were not permitted by law to refuse a short-distance fare.

He was speaking last Friday after an outcry from e-bike retailers over calls this month from the Road Safety Council to treat the vehicles the same as motorcycles.

E-bike supporters dismissed the council’s suggestions that the vehicles were capable of attaining speeds of 50km/h.

Michael Paynter, the owner of Pedego Bermuda in St George’s, said last week that Class 3 e-bikes, which some people had imported, were capable of reaching higher speeds.

But Mr Paynter and Dexter Swan of Social Cycles in Pembroke said their businesses dealt only in bikes that went no faster than about 30km/h.

They said the bikes were popular with seniors looking for light exercise as well as guided tours for visitors.

Mr Scott insisted that there had been documented cases of electric-boosted vehicles “passing cars going up Scaur Hill in Somerset”.

He said e-bikes had been involved in accidents where passengers had been injured and not covered by insurance and that some e-bikes were capable of going up to 55kph.

He added: “We are not going with anything broad, one size fits all.

“We are looking at cases of mischief, being people who are found to be driving under the influence where the courts have determined they should have their licence suspended and not be able to drive.

“At this time, we want to ensure electronic bikes are included in that decision.”

Mr Scott said unlicensed cabs, a private vehicle used to charge passengers a fee – had become an established part of the island’s culture – but remained illegal.

He added: “Again we have documented proof showing where those persons using private vehicles for hire, gypsy cabs, have assaulted customers, operated under the influence, and are overcharging people.

“We have to highlight that these are things we have seen since time immemorial, but are still illegal.”

Mr Scott said there had also been cases of gypsy cabs charging high fees for short trips that had been turned down by licensed taxi drivers.

He added an unlicensed cab charged $50 to take passengers the short distance from King’s Square in St George’s to Tobacco Bay after a cab driver refused the job.

Mr Scott said there were other cases where taxi drivers had declined a short run from the cab rank at Hamilton City Hall to North Hamilton.

Mr Scott said the regulations prohibited a taxi for hire from refusal to accept a passenger for a “lawful journey“.

He added: “We are looking to see what steps should be taken – it’s unlawful, and the ministry can’t turn a blind eye to unlawful activity.”

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Published February 02, 2021 at 8:16 am (Updated February 02, 2021 at 8:16 am)

Drink drivers to be banned from use of electric bicycles

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