Bicycle helmet use to become optional under new legislation

Pedelecs and e-bikes with up to 250W do not need to be registered and helmets are to be made optional

New rules will make the wearing of helmets optional, when riding motorcycles or bikes below a certain speed limit.

The rules are currently being drafted, Transport Malta (TM) said in response to an article published in MaltaToday on Wednesday.

Existing legislation forcing all cyclists to wear a helmet were believed to be stifling efforts to promote the greater use of bicycles, particularly schemes related to bike-sharing, a spokesperson for Bicycle Advocacy Group Malta (BAG) said.

As a result, TM is now drafting new legislation in order to “bring Malta more in line with countries where bicycles are regularly used as a commuting mode of transport.”

Currently, Malta is the only EU country which obliges all adult cyclists to wear helmets in all areas at all times. The new legislation is a confirmation of TM’s commitment in favour of innovation in the area of alternate modes of transport, a spokesperson for TM told MaltaToday.

“Transport Malta has been at the forefront in promoting bike sharing, enacting legislation to make this possible and is in constant dialogue with potential service providers to make this service more popular,” he said.

“The Authority recognises the fact that obligatory helmets can be of hindrance to the promulgation of such initiatives.”


No need to register 250W e-bikes

Pedelecs and e-bikes with up to 250W power drive systems do not, in fact, need to be registered. The legislation which obliges cyclists to register power-assisted pedal cycles or motorised bicycles was put into place in order to “curtail the abuse of ‘home-made’ motorised bikes”, and not to enforce the registration of regular 250W pedelecs and e-bikes.

However, the 2013 legislation does not explicitly state ‘home-made’ or ‘irregular’ motorised bicycles, leading to the misunderstanding which caused the drop in sales and decreased use of e-bikes prior to the budget announcements.

“A number of individuals had resorted to install small fuel engines on regular bicycles, endangering themselves and other road users. The legislation was in fact very effective in removing these potentially dangerous irregular bikes from our roads,” the TM spokesperson said.

“Pedelec and e-bike owners can ride them on our roads without registering them or paying any licence fees, the same as one would with a traditional bicycle.”

BAG had previously announced that sales of pedelecs had dropped by 90% and that e-bike use had fallen by 85% following the 2013 legislation, as cyclists feared that they were required to register any manner of motorised and electric bicycle in order to use it.

However, a spokesperson for the group did remark that announcements in the 2018 Budget had already begun to show positive results in terms of sales for e-bikes and pedelecs.