Transportation Policy

Dublin Wants Scooter Riders to Wear Helmets, Reflective Vests, Pass Driving Test

Strict scooter regulations are a loss for choice and mobility.


Located in Dublin, Ireland, is the European headquarters for Lime, a company that rents out dockless electric scooters and bikes off city streets via an app. Not located in Dublin are any of Lime's vehicles.

That's because current Irish law subjects all vehicles, whether it be a scooter or an SUV, to regulatory requirements for road-worthiness, insurance coverage, tax, vehicle registration, and licensure. That effectively prohibits electric scooter businesses like Lime from operating on the Emerald Isle, given that their vehicles would not meet many of these requirements.

And while efforts to legalize electric scooters are in progress at the national level, local officials in the Irish capital are demanding any reform include some pretty onerous regulations for riders.

Over the weekend, The Irish Times reported that the Dublin City Council submitted public comment to the national Department of Transportation demanding that any new regulations should require scooter riders to undergo driver testing, obtain insurance, and wear helmets and high-visibility clothing.

While they wait for new scooter regs to come down the pike, Dublin police have been cracking down on errant micro-mobility enthusiasts as well. So far, two people have been charged with piloting electric vehicles without insurance.

The arrests and demands for strict regulation are coming as Irish Minister for Transport Shane Ross is preparing to unveil proposed new scooter regulations over the next few weeks.

Should Ross adopt what Dublin officials are asking for, he'd likely kill off any nascent scooter-sharing businesses in the country. It's unrealistic to expect the kind of casual scooter rider who would rent one of the vehicles off the street to also happen to have a reflective vest, helmet, and insurance ready to go.

It's for this reason that cycling activists and business interests are asking the government to take a lighter-touch approach.

"If smart city solutions such as e-scooters are to be held back by laws that predate the possibility of their existence, it sets a negative precedent for the embracing of opportunities presented by new technologies in the fight to reduce emissions," said the Dublin Chamber (the city's main business lobby) in public comments to the Department of Transport.

The country's Cycling Advocacy Network has taken a pretty libertarian approach to the issue, coming out against licenses for scooter riders. They also oppose helmet requirements and mandatory vehicle training.

European cities' response to the rise of electric scooters has been pretty similar to that of American localities. Berlin has been relatively accommodating. Paris allows them, but authorities are quick to issue fines for improper riding or parking. Barcelona bans electric scooters completely. Dublin's proposed rules would make the city one of the strictest in Europe where scooters are allowed.

Unlike docked bike-share services (not to mention public transit), dockless scooters and bikes don't require a user to travel from one fixed location to another. They can pick them up wherever they are and take them wherever they need to go.

The more requirements casual riders are forced to comply with, however, the fewer casual riders the city will have. That's a loss for choice and mobility.