The Government has approved a new Road Traffic Bill which legislates, for the first time, the use of e-scooters and e-bikes on Irish roads.

It also includes legislation for the use of scramblers and a variable speed limit system on the M50 in Dublin.

E-scooters are described in the Bill as "a powered personal transporter" in the bill and as with E-bikes their maximum design speed is prescribed to be "no less than six kilometres per hour and no more than 25 kilometres per hour."

But local authorities will be given the power to set a lower 20km/h speed limit for e-scooters on specified roads or parts of roads and it will be an offence to supply one to someone who is under 16.

It may also be an offence to drive an e-scooter while using a mobile phone or other information or "entertainment equipment"

Use of e-scooters will be prohibited on motorways and busways but allowed on cycle routes.

It will be an offence for anyone on an e-scooter to "hold on to any other vehicle which is in motion or hold on to any person or thing on, in, or attached to, any such vehicle."

They must be "designed and constructed for the carriage of a single person, but not designed or constructed for a person with restricted mobility or for the carriage of goods" and the maximum continuous power output of the motor is limited to 0.25KW

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan said: "We committed in the Programme for Government to resolving legal barriers to the use of e-scooters, as well as e-bikes, and this Bill will deliver on both of those commitment".

The bill will also include legislation to support more rapid implementation of BusConnect and amendments to the records of vehicles and drivers, which will strengthen law enforcement by directly linking licensed drivers to registered vehicles.

"I believe it will represent a major improvement to our traffic and roads laws, with real benefits for the travelling public," Minister Ryan said.

Under a €50 million plan to tackle increasing traffic volumes on the M50, variable speed limits will be introduced.

Digital signals will display changeable speed limits allowing operators to reduce speed on sections of the motorway or close lanes if there are traffic jams, a road crash or if emergency service access is needed.

Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton said "The new measures which allow The Transport Infrastructure Ireland to manage traffic better on the M50 will make it safer for all users, while the completion of the Motor Insurance Database will assist in stopping uninsured drivers, who are often dangerous and guilty of other road traffic offences".

"It will also help in bringing down the cost of insurance for law-abiding drivers," she said.

More than 20 operators have expressed interest in launching shared e-scooter services both in Dublin and in towns and cities around the country.

TIER is currently carrying out a pilot e scooter project for staff and students on five DCU campuses

"We are confident that, with this strong legislation approved by Cabinet, we are one step closer to not only legally having e-scooters in Ireland, but also ensuring the country has the safest e-scooter regime in Europe" said Benjamin Bell, TIER's Director of Public Policy for Northern Europe.

"We look forward to seeing this go to the Oireachtas and hopefully allowing for safe, legal e-scooter usage on our roads" he added.

Duncan Robertson, UK & Ireland General Manager for another e-scooter company, Dott, also welcomed the announcement:

"We're delighted the Irish Government is moving ahead with plans to regulate the use of e-scooters on Irish roads," he said.

"Our e-scooters make it easy to get around, reduce pollution and provide a great alternative to public transport."

"Dott already operates in more than 35 cities across Europe, and we hope to use our experience and best-in-class technology to ensure the Irish e-scooter roll out is as smooth as possible."

Aisling Dunne, the recently appointed Head of Public Policy for mobility company Bolt said it does not envision the tendering process for local authorities beginning before summer of next year and it realistically could be Christmas 2022 before rental electric scooters become accessible for Irish users.

"It is paramount that proper legislation is introduced to curb unsafe e-scooter habits emerging from private use, such as multiple people using scooters at once and their use on paths and pedestrian areas," she said.

VOI Technology, the Swedish urban-mobility company also welcomed the publication of the Road Traffic and Roads Bill 2021.

The company said the move, and the resulting passage of the legislation, has the potential to revolutionise how people get around Irish towns and cities, reducing congestion and helping tackle emissions.

"We welcome today's announcement by Ministers Ryan and Naughton of the publication of the Road Traffic and Roads Bill 2021 which will be introduced into the Dáil in the coming weeks," said Charlie Gleeson, CEO and Founder of Zipp Mobility.

"This is an exciting and long-awaited development which will allow for the regulation of e-scooters and also e-bikes in Ireland."

Fine Gael TD Alan Farrell said the bill, if passed, will ensure that e-scooters and e-bikes "are used safely, make commuting easier and benefit our fight against climate change".

Deputy Farrell published a private members' bill last year to legislate for e-scooters and e-bikes.

Additional reporting Colman O'Sullivan