…as legislation prohibits under-16 use
New laws to regulate the use of electric bicycles on Guyana’s roadways were passed in the National Assembly on Wednesday and will now see e-bikes having to be licensed as well as an age-restriction on those who use this mode of transportation.
The Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill 2023 was tabled in the National Assembly on April 24 and came up for second reading as well as debates on Wednesday. The bill defines electric cycles as “any motor cycle that has an electric motor, and is fitted with an effective stopping system controlled by use of brakes, gears or motor control.”
Effectively, the amendments to the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act Cap 51:02 will bring electric cycles under the same legislative regime as motorcycles. This also means that the provisions of the Principal Act that governs the registration and use of motor cycles will now be applicable to electric cycles.
Presently, an individual must be 16 years of age or older before he/she can apply for a provisional motorcycle licence and 17 years or older for a provisional motorcycle and car licence. An applicant needs to be 18 years of age or older for a car, van and motorcycle licence.
Section 33 (2) of the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act allows persons who are 16 years to drive motorcycles.
Consequently, the regularization of electric bikes in Guyana will prohibits persons under the age of 16 to use this type of transportation.
Home Affairs Minister, Robeson Benn, stated that the rapid emergence of electric bikes over the past years due to their availability and affordability warrants Guyana’s laws to address the use of e-bikes.
“We have had to take into account the fact that we should not leave gaps in the way our laws are written, so that the question of whether a motor as stated in the law, refers only to a gasoline or diesel-powered vehicle… We wanted to have it clearly defined that it includes electric motors. It is to provide clarity and safety in terms of the language of the law, in case the use of the word ‘motor’ is challenged,” the minister stated.
Benn disclosed that at the recent Guyana Police Force’s Annual Conference last month, a charge was given to the law enforcement agency to up its game on improving safety and reducing deaths, injuries and accidents on the country’s roads.
According to statistics, 11 persons have been killed and 14 injured from using e-bikes during the period 2021 to date. Last year alone, there were seven electric bike-related road fatalities recorded in Guyana and a few already in 2023.
Laws are necessary
In light of these, Opposition Member of Parliament Geeta Chandan-Edmond posited that these amendments are born out of a need for public safety and to maintain law and order. She pointed to the automatic benefits of such laws including the fact that ownership of e-bikes will be established and can be tracked for law enforcement and tax purposes.
The Opposition Parliamentarian also cited international reports that highlight other benefits of e-bikes especially to the environment such as it being 10 to 30 times more efficient than electric cars at fighting climate change as well as battery efficiency which is 30 to 100 times better than e-vehicles.
Against this backdrop, MP Chandan-Edmond noted that these amendments to the laws are necessary and the Opposition, therefore, sees no need to railroad this process.
“We are here to make laws that are designed for the protection of the Guyanese people and any Bill that intends to do that, shall receive our support.”
This support from the Opposition was welcomed by Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister, Anil Nandlall, SC. He stated that the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration will continue to introduce such legislations as the country progresses.
He stated that Government recognises the fact that the lives of too many citizens are being lost on the roadways and will constantly be taking requisite steps to address this phenomenon. According to Nandlall, the People of Guyana, and not oil, are the most important resources and so efforts will be directed towards protecting them.
“We recognise that it is a cheap source of transportation for those who are more vulnerable in our society. We also recognise that it is a quick and expedient mode of transportation in our country. So, we embrace this mode of transportation but we thought it fit that it should be brought into regulation,” he stated.
Pointing to the fact that persons younger than 16-years are using e-bikes on the country’s roadways, AG Nandlall further posited that this frightening state of affairs can no longer persists.
On February 17, 2023 Bibi Sophia Mohammed, a 17-year-old resident of Non Pareil, East Coast Demerara, died after her electric bike collided with a truck on the Coldingen Public Road, ECD. At the time of the accident, the Sophia was the pillion rider while her 16-year-old sister, who was also injured, was driving the bike.
Meanwhile, in efforts to curb Guyana’s road fatalities, the Motor Vehicle and Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill was passed in the National Assembly in November 2022 to toughen existing laws to prevent drunk driving and the carnage on the road it results in.
Draft amendments to the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act, as well as the Intoxicating Liquor Licensing (Amendment) Bill were approved by the Cabinet in March of last year with the aim of toughening up the penalties for drunk drivers and the bars that serve them.
The Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act amended the Principal Act and put in place a new Section, 35A which now makes causing the death of someone through drunk driving a case of vehicular manslaughter.
The draft Bill also amends Section 39A of the Principal Act – the penalty for driving while over the alcohol limit – replacing the $7500 fine with $200,000, and the sentence of 12 months with 24 months.
It has also been amended for the penalty for driving under the influence and losing control of your vehicle to be increased from its current $30,000 to $60,000 fine/imprisonment for 12 months to $200,000 for first-time offenders and $300,000 for second-time offenders. (G8)