An entrepreneur and founder of insurance comparison site CompareNI.com has warned Northern Ireland is at risk of missing out on the benefits of the ‘e-Bike revolution’ sweeping through other parts of the UK.
Greg Wilson has identified that while the popularity of e-Bikes is increasing ‘dramatically’ in other parts of the UK, they remain a rare sight in Northern Ireland. According to Wilson, this is due in part to legislation classifying e-Bikes as mopeds not being repealed or replaced in Northern Ireland the way it has in other parts of the UK.
This means that e-Bike owners in Northern Ireland have to foot the bill for the additional costs of tax, insurance, a licence and an MOT.
CompareNI.com’s research shows that under the Cycle to Work scheme active in other parts of the kingdom, a standard taxpayer choosing a £1,000 e-Bike may typically save £70-£250 but if they lived in Northern Ireland they would face at least £290 in additional costs.
“E-Bikes are one of the biggest trends in transport, and could offer huge benefits for people, the province and small businesses,” Wilson explained. “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.”
These are all worthy reasons for Northern Ireland to jump on the e-Bike bandwagon, Wilson explained: “However, while other people in 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 e-Bikes in Northern Ireland was never passed due to the collapse of the province’s power-sharing government in January 2017. Until power-sharing is restored and the bill passed, e-Bikes will continue to be classed as mopeds, meaning users are obliged to hold a moped licence, register their e-Bike with the DVLA, have an MOT, wear a motorcycle helmet and have moped insurance.
Wilson, who also founded Quotezone.co.uk, an insurance comparison platform in England, Scotland and Wales, believes these parts of the UK could now experience the same kind of growth countries such as the Netherlands and Germany are enjoying, following new guidance on the Cycle to Work scheme in June 2019 which raised the cap to over £1,000. However, complexities surrounding the scheme has left Cycle to Work providers struggling to sell bikes costing more than £1,000.