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Electric bike riders in Northern Ireland need a motorcycle licence

Patrick McDonnell
09 August 2017

Any cyclist riding an electric bicycle in Northern Ireland (NI) without a proper licence could face fines up to £1,000. The Department for Infrastructure said that anyone who owns an electric bike (e-bike) in NI must have a motorcycle licence.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK where such a requirement applies. Legislation to change the law on e-bikes is stalled as the Northern Ireland Assembly is not currently sitting.

Consequently electric bikes in the province needs to be insured, taxed and registered with the DVLA. Riders are also required to wear a crash helmet.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said that anyone not complying with the law could be liable to a fine with a minimum of six penalty points on their licence. The PSNI added that offenders could also be disqualified from riding, depending on the judge’s view of the offence.

Throughout the rest of the UK anyone aged 14 or over can ride electric bikes that meet certain requirements. They do not need a licence and the bike does not need to be registered, taxed or insured.

Up to 1995, Electrical Assisted Pedal Bicycles (EAPBs) were treated as mopeds throughout the UK, so the vehicle had to be licensed and insured and the rider had to hold a valid provisional or full driving licence (category AM Mopeds).

In 1995, the law in England, Scotland and Wales was changed to exempt EAPBs from this requirement, but a similar exemption was not legislated in Northern Ireland.

In a statement, the Department for Infrastructure said: “The department was recently approached by Sustrans NI and the Bicycle Association of Great Britain seeking clarification of the legal requirements in NI.

“They were advised that EAPBs have never been exempted from licensing or registration requirements in NI and that those selling them here should highlight to any customers wishing to use these vehicles on public roads that they must register their vehicle through DVLA in Swansea.

“Customers must also be made aware that they may have to pay vehicle excise duty and insure these vehicles. Anyone found riding an EAPB in NI and not complying with one or more of the legal requirement could, theoretically, face a fine between £500 and £1,000 depending on the nature of the offence. However, to date no prosecutions have taken place.”

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