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Northern Ireland ‘missing out on e-bike revolution’, says entrepreneur

Northern Ireland is missing out on the benefits of the ‘e-bike revolution’ because of its ‘antiquated’ laws, an entrepreneur has said.

Greg Wilson, founder of insurance comparison site CompareNI.com, says that the popularity of e-bikes is increasing dramatically in other parts of the UK, and since June of this year commuters can even benefit from tax breaks under the UK’s Cycle to Work scheme.

According to Wilson, e-bikes remain a rare sight in Northern Ireland, and this is because legislation classifying e-bikes as mopeds hasn’t been repealed or replaced in Northern Ireland the way it has in other parts of the country, which means any savings are outweighed by the additional cost of tax, insurance, licence and MOT.

CompareNI.com’s research shows that, under the Cycle to Work scheme, a standard taxpayer choosing a £1,000 bike may typically save £70 to £250. However, 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,” said Wilson. “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 proposed bill designed to modernise the legal perspective on electric bikes in Northern Ireland, which would have aligned legislation in the province with that in the rest of the UK, was never passed because of the collapse of the power-sharing Government in January 2017. Until power-sharing is restored and that bill is passed e-bikes will continue to be classed as mopeds in Northern Ireland, meaning users are obliged to hold a moped licence, register the bicycle with the DVLA, have an MOT, wear a motorcycle helmet and have moped insurance.

In the Netherlands, one million e-bikes were sold in 2018 alone, while in Germany one in four bikes sold is now an e-bike. Wilson, who also founded Quotezone.co.uk, believes those parts of the UK could now experience the same kind of growth the Netherlands and Germany are enjoying following new guidance on the Cycle to Work scheme in June 2019, which clarified that e-bikes and cycles above the £1,000 price limit can be included in the scheme.

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