Phillip Darnton, executive director of the Bicycle Association, has written a hard-hitting letter to transport minister Norman Baker, warning of the dangers for the UK if EU rule changes on electric bikes are accepted into UK law.
Extracts from Darnton’s letter are below:
"The proposed changes [concern] the Motor Cycles Framework Regulation COM (2010) 542 by the IMCO Commission of the European Parliament. We understand that these proposals are to be voted on by a plenary session of the EU Parliament in February 2012.
"The BAGB, on behalf of the UK cycle industry, is very concerned by the latest amended proposals, and ask you to use all appropriate means to ensure that they are rejected, and form no part of any consequent UK legislation.
"Following the DfT’s consultation on both EPAC’s and EPV’s in March 2010, there was agreement across the industry – as well as with cycling groups – that the guidance which, de facto, had been in force in the UK on the definition of an EPAC was almost entirely appropriate, and in keeping with general practice in EU countries. The three key determinants of an electrically-assisted pedal cycle were:
i.maximum speed of 15mph/25kphii.power rating of 250 w. maximum (currently 200 w. In UK)iii.power cut-off when not pedalled (except for initial start-up i.e. no “twist-and-go” throttle capability
"The UK industry, along with Colibi/Coliped for European manufacturers and distributors, have sought to ensure that any revised regulations:
i.make a clear distinction between a bicycle and any form of scooter, moped or motor-cycle.
ii.ensure the safety of all road-users, with regard to the speed, acceleration and weight of EAPC’s
iii.give absolute clarity to retailers and consumers on what the legal status of the EAPC is; i.e. that it is not a ‘motor vehicle; requiring a licence, vehicle excise duty, a rider age limit, and mandatory helmet use.
iv.To muddle the clear distinction between pedal cycles and all other road vehicles is a significant potential risk to their current position, which requires none of the above.
"However, the last amended draft from the IMCO Commission of the EU has introduced two features of the definition which are of serious concern, namely: that the power-rating maximum of 250watt should be relaxed to include motors up to 1kw; and that the bicycle does not need to be pedalled for the motor to engage i.e. “twist and go” throttles are to be allowed.
"Not only would such a regulation blur the distinction between what is/is not a bicycle, but also presents considerable risks for road safety, especially in terms of continuous speed as well as acceleration. It is not stated whether there would be any minimum age limit on the riders of these 25 kph electric vehicles, or where their use would be proscribed, eg whether allowed in cycle lanes.
"China, in particular, is manufacturing cheap “twist and go” bikes in large quantities, and the impact of the adoption of this amended regulation by the EU Parliament would – assuming that it was followed by the DfT in due course – very quickly have an effect on Britain’s roads. Hence the significance of drawing it to your attention now.
"The proposed amendment to the Motor Cycle Framework Regulation COM 542 has been very actively promoted by the European motor cycling lobby group (ETRA); it would in our view, be irresponsible if this special pleading were to influence new regulation without challenge. If the current speed of pedal cyclists is already a concern for some road users, a move to larger, faster and heavier electric vehicles will only make the issue worse.
"Furthermore such changes would effectively constitute a ‘back-door’ route to deregulate entry-level motor cycles, making them available to a much younger group and removing essential safety standards."