The main news coming out of the proposed National Road Traffic Amendment Bill, published on the official South African Government website, is that it seeks to reduce the drunk-driving limit in south Africa to zero.
There has been talk about this for a while, so it isn’t surprising.
What we didn’t see coming is that, for the first time, it brings E-bikes into legislation.
As with most bills, there is a fair amount of repetition, but we want you to have all the facts so bear with me.
Here’s how a motor vehicle is defined:
A ‘motor vehicle’ means any self-propelled vehicle , and includes a vehicle propelled by means of […] engine or electric motor, or both such pedals and engine or electric motor, but does not include […] a pedal cycle having pedals and an engine or an electrical motor as an integral part thereof with a maximum design speed not exceeding 25km/h.
However, an additional clause says that the exemption for E-bikes from the class of ‘motor vehicle’ is revoked should they have a maximum design speed of 45km/h.
This is emphasised in the definition of a ‘pedal cycle’:
[A pedal cycle is] any Bicycle or tricycle designed for propulsion solely by means or human power or any bicycle or tricycle with operable pedals and electric motor with a total weights that does not exceed 30kg provided that the electric motor may not be capable of propelling the bicycle or tricycle unassisted at a speed exceeding 25km/h.
So, to summarise, if your E-bike is designed to only reach a maximum of 25km/h, you won’t need a license.
If it is designed to reach a maximum speed of 45km/h, it could fall under the definition of ‘motor vehicle’, and, according to the bill:
Clause 19 amends section 13 of the Act to emphasise that licenses authorising the driving of a motor vehicle are a learner’s license, a provisional driving license and a driving license.
In short, E-bikes that go faster than 45km/h may require a license to drive, just like a motorbike does.
It could also lead to faster makes of E-bikes being banned from areas reserved just for cyclists, such as specialist bike lanes.
Business Insider SA has covered a few other potential legal ramifications here.
These changes are not yet set in stone, but are worth keeping an eye on.
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