Two insurance firms are claiming that Northern Ireland is missing out on an "e-bike revolution" by continuing to class any e-bikes as a moped, contrary to the rest of the Britain.
England, Scotland and Wales fall in line with the EU's rules on e-bikes that states bikes with a maximum 250 watt motor that cuts out at 25km/h can be ridden like a normal pedal cycle, with no licence or insurance needed; however in Northern Ireland, e-bikers have to hold a moped licence, register the bike with the DVLA, insure it and wear a motorcycle helmet.
Anyone with an s-pedelec will know all this can be a right faff, and Quotezone say the financial and practical barriers are depriving NI residents of the chance to join in a green transport revolution. Their research shown that assuming a Northern Irish e-biker has purchased a £1,000 e-bike, they would currently would have to fork out at least £290 more than their fellow UK counterparts (not to mention the extra time spent filling out forms). The rest of us would actually save ourselves £70-£250 using the same £1,000 e-bike, if we were to take advantage of the tax breaks on the Cycle to Work scheme.
Greg Wilson, the founder of Compare NI, believes repealing Northern Ireland's outdated e-bike legislation would see e-bike usage rise significantly like it is currently in the rest of the UK: "E-bikes are one of the biggest trends in transport, and could offer huge benefits for people, the province and small businesses. 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 bill to align NI's e-bike laws with the rest of the UK was never passed because of the collapse of the power-sharing government in January 2017, and currently Northern Irish e-bikers without insurance and a licence can still be fined between £500-£1,000 for flouting the rules.