The National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI), Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind and Irish Wheelchair Association are urging Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan to take action with e-scooter legislation in order to protect pedestrians with access needs before it is too late.
Last week, the Transport Minister unveiled his strategy for electric charging vehicle infrastructure which will include the development of new mobility hubs in cities, where people can charge electric cars, bikes and scooters and avail of shared-use electric vehicles. However, despite their increased usage there is still no clear legislation or a regulatory framework around the use of e-scooters. The three organisations are calling on the Minister to bring forward late-stage amendments to ban the use of e-scooters on footpaths, mandate designated parking bays, reduce the maximum speed limit, and to ensure age restrictions and insurance requirements apply.
Recent research conducted by Dublin City Council demonstrates that 73% of respondents identified “Danger to other road users” as a negative aspect of e-scooters and 59% indicated a preference for designated parking for e-scooters.
NCBI Lorna Fitzpatrick, Advocacy & Engagement Manager said; “Having the infrastructure to support this use of electric vehicles is vital but the legislation and regulations around use of e-scooters is essential to protect the safety of pedestrians with access needs. We know from our own research that 77% of respondents have already reported they had an incident with an e-scooter on a footpath. The Bill bans the use of e-scooters on motorways and busways yet not on footpaths that people with access needs rely on for independent travel. There is clear evidence from at home and abroad that e-scooters have caused harm to people when involved in accidents, yet the Minister has not moved to mitigate against these risks within the legislation.”
Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind Advocacy Manager, Léan Kennedy, stated; “Blind and vision impaired people have no way of pre-empting a collision with an e-scooter in their travel space. Often, encroaching e-scooters can startle a guide dog forcing it to stop and thereby disorientating its owner. We know that 90% of our clients are concerned for their safety in relation to e-scooters, with 53% having had a negative experience or near collision with an e-scooter. It should be easy to understand the need to prohibit e-scooter use on footpaths and in pedestrianised shared use areas. Despite Ireland having ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the needs of Guide Dog and Assistance Dog owners are being neglected by the Minister in the development of this bill and it would take minimal effort for the recommendations in our position paper to be incorporated into the primary legislation. We strongly encourage the Minister to meet with us before the confidence and freedom that people with mobility and vision impairments currently enjoy comes to significant harm.”
John Fulham, Irish Wheelchair Association Public Engagement Manager added; “The concerns and lived experience of people with disabilities and limited mobility in relation to the use of e-scooters has been clearly communicated by us to the Minister. Regrettably, this has not been deemed important enough by the Minister and his department to be adequately addressed within the proposed legislation. The safety and security of those with disabilities and limited mobility is being compromised. Should the legislation remain in its current form, it places those with disabilities and limited mobility in a very vulnerable position. We urge Minister Ryan to reconsider his approach and address the issues previously raised in the legislation.”
All three organisations have again expressed their concerns that the Minister has not been available to meet with them to hear directly about the issues this legislation will have for people with access needs across the country and again reiterate their openness and availability to meet with the Minister at his earliest opportunity.