POLICE have called for clarification of legislation covering the legality of electric scooters and powered bicycles following an upsurge in popularity of the machines as a cheap alternative to cars.
Several recent prosecutions of riders over licensing and registration have triggered court challenges with police winning some and losing some.
Adding to the confusion is that VicRoads and police sometimes have differing interpretations of road rules relating to power and speed.
Hamilton-based highway patrol officer Sergeant Scott Williams revealed approaches had been made to the police policy section to seek a change in legislation.
“It needs to be more user-friendly — there are too many vague areas,” he said.
“The legislation can be interpreted in a number of ways and it is difficult for police to ascertain the power of a motor.
“We are seeing more of these machines, particularly being used by people who have lost their licence for drink-driving and other traffic offences.
“There’s a hoon element driving these things like idiots with a real risk of serious injury or death.”
Sergeant Williams said a simple interpretation by police was that if an electric-powered scooter had pedals the rider should be using the pedals, not solely relying on the motor.
“It’s either being used as a motorscooter or a pushbike,” he said.
“The electric motor is there to help propel you, not be the sole source of propulsion, otherwise it is a vehicle and must be registered and the rider hold a licence and wear the correct helmet.”
Petrol-powered engines fitted to bicycles were also illegal, he said.
VicRoads told The Standard a scooter was not classed as a motor vehicle if propelled by an electric motor(s) with maximum output not exceeding 200 watts and not capable of exceeding 10 kilometres an hour.
And power-assisted pedal cycles fitted with an auxiliary motor(s) not exceeding 200 watts or a pedalec (European-style bike) up to 250 watts were also not classed as motor vehicles.
“The fundamental characteristics of these vehicles is that they are capable of being powered by pedals alone and are likely to have similar performance characteristics to any average rider on a non-powered bicycle,” a spokesman said.
“Motorised vehicles that do not meet these requirements must be registered and meet necessary vehicle standards and riders must be licensed.”
According to Sergeant Williams police gave a bit of leeway in speed allowing up to 20km/h for electric scooters.
Retail sources told The Standard cheap versions of the machines were easily obtainable on internet sites and posed a safety risks for inexperienced users.