South Australians will soon be able to use European-style, power-assisted pedal cycles, or 'pedalecs', following passage of a State Government amendment to the Road Traffic Act 1961 through Parliament.
Pedalecs, which operate on 250 watts of power, can reach speeds of up to 25 kilometres per hour but have an important safety feature which cuts power once 25km/h has been reached.
Under the current Act, the meaning of 'bicycle' only includes power-assisted pedal cycles which operate under 200w, excluding 250w pedalecs. This effectively means pedalecs are not considered bicycles and are also unable to be registered like motorbikes in order to ride them in SA. If a person operates a pedalec on our roads, they potentially face penalties for driving unregistered and uninsured and, if they do not hold a licence, driving unlicensed.
The amended definition within the Act includes 250w pedalecs, which will remove barriers for those who would like to use this form of transport. The amended definition of power-assisted pedal cycles refers to the definition within the current Commonwealth Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989.
The amendment to the Act will be complemented by changes to regulations which will exempt pedalec users from registration, insurance and licensing requirements.
More than one million electric bikes are sold across Europe each year and that the phenomenon is on its way to Australia. Pedalecs are an alternative for people who want to get around quickly and easily but don’t want to drive a car, for riders who may not be fit enough to ride an ordinary bicycle or for those with a mobility impairment.
The pedalec changes are expected to come into effect early next year, bringing South Australia in line with Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory.
Once the changes are in operation, all the requirements that bicycle users must meet will also apply to pedalec users. These include obeying all of the Australian Road Rules for cyclists, for example wearing helmets, giving warning to pedestrians and giving way at roundabouts.
The changes have been welcomed by peak cycling groups in South Australia, such as Bicycle SA and the Bicycle Institute of SA (BISA) as well as the broader cycling community and the Australian bicycle industry.