The Norwegian Government announced last week that they are bringing e-boards and other electrical vehicles into line with cycles/e-bikes and their use on public roads and pavements.
This is in-line with the EU recommendations on personal electric vehicles and on the face of it this looks good, with headlines such as: ‘e-boards legal on public roads in Norway‘…. however, it is not that simple or in my view that welcoming, when you go into the detail and understand the objectives behind it.
Press Release. Date: 10.04.2018
The government has today set new regulations for small electric vehicles.
“This government will simplify regulations and remove unnecessary prohibitions. In 2014, the government made use of self-balancing vehicles legally in Norway. Now we take new steps and change the regulations so that other small electric vehicles are also allowed, and it will be the same rules for all such vehicles as for bicycles. There will be no age limit, and you can use the same areas as cycling and walking, ” says Solvik-Olsen.
Same care requirements as cyclists
The rules of particular care against other road users when using the vehicle for example on sidewalks or walkways shall also apply to users of small electric vehicles.
For road safety reasons, the weight of such vehicles is limited to 70 kilograms, including battery. The width should not be more than 85 cm, the length not more than 120 cm, and the maximum speed does not exceed 20 km per hour. The technical requirements correspond mainly to those that have been applicable to self-balancing vehicles
The vehicle shall be equipped with headlamps, tail lights and reflectors. There is also a requirement for braking power. In addition, the vehicle must have a signal horn or a signal bell, similar to that of a bicycle. However, exceptions to these requirements may be granted where such equipment cannot be fitted. There is no requirement for helmet or mandatory training.
“Although there is no requirement for helmet use, I would urge anyone who travels on both bicycles and small electric vehicles to use a helmet, drive carefully and pay attention to other road users, especially towards walking,” says Solvik-Olsen.
The objective of this law is to bring the increasing plethora of personal electric vehicles, scooters, e-boards, one-wheels, hover-boards etc. in line with existing restrictions on e-bikes and, here is the crux of it all, their physical restriction to a max of 20km/h (12mp/h). Note, importantly, this must be a physical restriction of the transport, it is not a speed limit. It will be illegal, with penalties, to use on the public road or pavement any personal electrical transport that can exceed 20km/h. It does not matter if you are only doing 5km/h, if the board can do more than 20km/h, which virtually all non-toy boards can, you are not allowed on the public road or pavement and will be prosecuted.
So, all current mainstream e-boards – *Boosted, Evolve, Meepo*, all – will now be illegal on the public roads and pavements in Norway. We do, however, need to recognize that they already were illegal: as in most countries, only vehicles specifically approved for the road are allowed on the road. Most of us, around the world, ride illegally on public roads and pavements because we are not approved for the road.
So why do I still see this Norwegian law as a bad thing? You could argue that at least it is allowing boards, even if restricted to 12mph, on the roads? For me, it is that this law is purely setting a threshold of 12mph, to match a previous judgment on e-bikes, not in any way to help reduce urban congestion, fossil-burning pollution or even encourage e-boards. It is just set at 12mph because they did not want challenge what had already been implemented for cycles years ago. The law-makers did not look at how the technology has advanced and will advance, it just pushed e-boards and scooters back to when cycles and e-bikes first entered the market.
Finally, I am also very disappointed that it did not address the actual main safety concern with riding – the wearing or not of a helmet. If an accident is at 10km/h, 20km/h or 22km/h, it is highly likely that it is the lack of a helmet that will be the major contributing factor to the seriousness of the injury. I would happily see laws, like with seat-belts in cars, making helmets compulsory on public roads.
Norway, sorry don’t celebrate just yet, I think you actually just took a step backward. It will be interesting to see now if the board makers actually consider it a market now worth selling to. In the end, this law could not actually encourage e-boarding in Norway, it might actually kill it.