We love electric bikes here at IE magazine, and once the UK government starts building a Danish/Dutch infrastructure then we can all commute to work or the local shops in safety, rather than run the risks of pot-holed roads, splash-a-minute drivers, close-pass trucks and uninsured drivers delivering their County Lines products & services. Meanwhile, did you know that Northern Ireland is missing out on the benefits of the ‘e-bike revolution’ because of its antiquated laws? More info here;
Greg Wilson, founder of insurance comparison site CompareNI.com, says that the popularity of e-bikes is increasing dramatically in other parts of the UK, and since June of this year commuters can even benefit from tax breaks under the UK’s Cycle to Work scheme.
However, in Northern Ireland e-bikes remain a rare sight. Greg believes this is because legislation classifying e-bikes as mopeds hasn’t been repealed or replaced in Northern Ireland the way it has in other parts of the country, which means any savings are vastly outweighed by the additional cost of tax, insurance, licence and MOT.
CompareNI.com’s research shows that, under the Cycle to Work scheme, a standard taxpayer choosing a £1,000 bike may typically save £70 to £250. However, if they lived in Northern Ireland they would face at least £290 in additional costs, not to mention the time involved.
“E-bikes are one of the biggest trends in transport, and could offer huge benefits for people, the province and small businesses,” says Greg. “They make cycling accessible to a much wider audience – people who have to travel longer distances, older people or those not quite fit enough to make the journey without assistance. E-bikes can also reduce congestion, air pollution and carbon emissions because they can reduce the amount of time people spend driving their cars.
“However, while people in other parts of the UK can use an e-bike like an ordinary bicycle, the fact that historical legislation means e-bikes are still classified as mopeds in Northern Ireland is putting people off buying one. The province is set to miss out on the benefits unless those antiquated laws are changed.”
A proposed bill designed to modernise the legal perspective on electric bikes in Northern Ireland, which would have aligned legislation in the province with that in the rest of the UK, was never passed because of the collapse of the power-sharing government in January 2017. Until power-sharing is restored and that bill is passed e-bikes will continue to be classed as mopeds in Northern Ireland, meaning users are obliged to:
- hold a moped licence – which involves taking a theory test (cost £23) and a practical test (£58 on weekdays, otherwise £71) at a total cost of at least £81, in addition to any tuition fees.
- register the bicycle with the DVLA – which means users must pay road tax of £17 per year and have number plates, costing from £10.
- have an MOT – at a cost of £29.65 per year.
- wear a motorcycle helmet – which is likely to cost at least £45.
- have moped insurance – this could cost anywhere from £100 to £1,000 a year, depending on a wide range of factors. In every other part of the UK insurance is optional for e-bikes, and cyclists who do want cover for their e-bike can take out bicycle insurance, which tends to be cheaper than moped insurance.
Anyone found riding an e-bike in Northern Ireland and not complying with the legal requirements can face a fine of between £500 and £1,000.
In the Netherlands one million e-bikes were sold in 2018 alone, while in Germany one in four bikes sold is now an e-bike. Greg Wilson, who also founded Quotezone.co.uk, one of the leading insurance comparison platforms for people in England, Scotland and Wales, believes those parts of the UK could now experience the same kind of growth the Netherlands and Germany are enjoying following new guidance on the Cycle to Work scheme in June 2019, which clarified that e-bikes and cycles above the £1,000 price limit can be included in the scheme.
Northern Ireland could find itself left behind, though, and Quotezone.co.uk’s new bicycle insurance comparison system, which launched earlier this year, will be unable to provide insurance quotes to any e-bike owners with a Northern Ireland postcode until power-sharing is restored and the e-bike bill is passed.
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