Legal discrepancy forces businessman to put brakes on e-bike venture

A Donaghcloney man says an 'oversight in the law' here has forced him to close down his business offering guided rides on electronic mountain bikes.

Clive Anderson says he just cant risk continuing with his e-bike business, Live Bikes.
Clive Anderson says he just cant risk continuing with his e-bike business, Live Bikes.

Clive Anderson started ‘Live Bikes’ - a mobile service offering guided e-bike rides - two years ago. He invested more than £10,000 in four e-bikes, safety equipment, getting his trail cycle leader qualifications and creating a website for his business venture.

However, he’s now selling his bikes as he says a discrepancy in the law here has created uncertainty for him and other business operators and e-bike owners.

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The section on e-bikes on the gov.uk website says: “You don’t need a licence to ride one and it doesn’t need to be registered, taxed or insured.” But it adds: “In Northern Ireland, you need a motorcycle licence to drive any electric bike and the vehicle must be registered, taxed and insured.”

That difference in the law, which Mr Anderson only found out about recently, has left the local businessman with no other option but to shut down Live Bikes.

While no-one has officially told him that he has to close his business due to the difference in the law here, Mr Anderson says he just can’t take the risk of continuing with the venture.

“My insurance is for bicycles and my qualifications for doing guided rides are for bicycles, so if the law in Northern Ireland classifies e-bikes as motorcycles then I just can’t take the risk,” he said.

“If something happened to someone on a ride and someone was to put a claim in against me then my insurance probably wouldn’t pay out as they would just say the bikes are classed as motorcycles in Northern Ireland.

“I know to ride them [e-bikes] on the road you have to have tax and insurance, but as for riding them off-road I really don’t know what the law is if you were on some of the mountain bike trails. If they are being treated as motorbikes you’re probably not allowed to ride them on the mountain bike trails. I don’t know how I would stand, so I can’t take the risk.”

Mr Anderson says the confusion over e-bikes, which have a motor that can propel them to just over 15mph, will only be resolved if local politicians return to Stormont and bring the law here into line with the rest of the UK.

“A few years ago the law was updated in the rest of the UK to come in line with the rest of Europe, but that didn’t automatically transfer over to Northern Ireland, so we were in a wee bit of grey area over here for a while where nobody really knew what the law was but we just had to follow the rest of the UK. Now the wording on the government website has been updated and it’s in black and white now that you need a motorcycle licence, tax and insurance for an e-bike here.

“It will be like this until the government at Stormont gets up and running again and they can make the change to bring the law here into line with the rest of the UK.

“From what I’ve heard the government wants to update the law here to be like the rest of the UK, but until we actually get a government at Stormont nothing can be done, and no-one knows when that is going to be,” he added.