Row breaks out over e-bicycle licence bid
A move by the safety campaigners to insist electric bicycles are licensed would make the island’s roads more dangerous, one of the island’s main dealers claimed yesterday.
Michael Paynter, the owner and operator of Pedego Bermuda in St George’s, said the Road Safety Council’s push for the same licensing and insurance requirements for e-bikes as motorcycles could damage the new industry.
Mr Paynter said: “Speed is not what we’re here to sell.”
He added several potential customers had put their orders for electric bikes on hold after they learnt of the licensing plans.
Mr Paynter said: “The most predominant incentive for buying an electric bike is economics.
“The owner doesn’t have to purchase gas, insurance or registration. Unfortunately, if the Government does put this forth, it will kill that incentive.”
Mr Paynter added that e-bikes cost about the same as motorcycles and if they had licensed it would increase the number of motorised bikes on the roads.
He said: “I would like to believe the Road Safety Council is doing this with safety at heart, but it will do the opposite.
“If you’re spending the same amount of money on a bike with insurance and registration, but not the same level of performance, your incentive will be to spend that money on something that’s faster, heavier and more dangerous.
“Electric bikes are safer than motorcycles.”
Mr Paynter was speaking after e-bikes were put on notice by Dennis Lister III, chairman of the RSC, last month.
Mr Lister said that the bikes could hit speeds of 50km/h and should be regulated like motorcycles.
He added that helmets should also be mandatory for e-bike riders.
Mr Lister this week said the council planned to lobby the Ministry of Transport over the increasingly popular vehicles.
Mr Paynter added he had opened his e-bike business in 2018, but that the past year was “probably our best”.
He said: “We’ve had a lot of people, predominantly older people and retirees, looking for a way to stay fit and get around, while not having the large expense of gas.
“It’s added life and entertainment to St George’s. You can rent a bike and within a couple of hours you can check out the town, or go over to Clearwater for an afternoon, which you can’t do as a pedestrian or on a bicycle.
“With assistance you can go a lot farther, but not necessarily faster.”
He added: “If this goes through, it will have a drastic negative impact on sales.”
Mr Paynter said he had raised his concerns with the transport ministry and was told they were “currently working on logistics and will contact us in the near future for a meeting”.
Dexter Swan of Social Cycles, another e-bike seller, insisted that e-bikes were no faster than conventional pedal cycles and could not achieve speeds of up to 50km/h.
A ministry spokeswoman said yesterday: ““We will be consulting with the cycling companies and those who import these types of bikes.”
Mr Paynter started out selling electric bike tours in 2018, then went to California to meet Don DiCostanzo, the head of e-bike maker Pedego.
Mr Paynter said: “He loved Bermuda and was ecstatic about it. We garnered the exclusive rights to Pedego.”
Mr Paynter said his business dealt only in class one and two e-bikes, which have a maximum speed of 20mph, about 32km/h, and have “a risk profile almost identical to that of regular bikes”.
But he added that some people had imported class three bikes themselves, which could go faster and would “raise the eyebrows of regulators”.
Mr Paynter said: “I’m not aware of any incidents with e-bikes in major accidents, loss of life or property damage.
“The minister said he was being proactive but to me it sounds like a solution before there’s a problem.”
Mr Paynter said he suspected a “cash grab” by a Government that needed additional revenue.
He added the Government should support electronic vehicles as a cleaner alternative to fossil-fuel transport.
Anthony Santucci, the executive director of the anti-drink driving group Cada, said he supported the prosecution of e-bike users if they were found to be over the drink-driving limit.
Bicycles are covered under the Road Traffic Act for drink driving.
But Mr Santucci said licences for e-bikes was “not something we need”.
He added: “I ride a pedal cycle because I want to get exercise.
“Electronic bikes are a burgeoning industry. It’s small, it’s very specific, and I don’t think they need this.”