News

Minicars ready for the road

  • From left to right : Richard Davidge, Renault Importer, Minister Atherden, Government of Bermuda, Franck Cammas, Skipper Groupama Team France and Juan Carlos Duque, Director Importing Countries of Renault Americas Region

The French America’s Cup team are putting ten minicars on the road after new regulations allowing the vehicles — which faced a tough reception last year in Parliament — came into effect.

Initially, taxi drivers protested against the new vehicles and the Progressive Labour Party mistrusted the move to allow what Minister of Tourism, Transport and Municipalities Senator Michael Fahy called a “viable and safe” rental alternative for visitors.

Last week The Royal Gazette reported the arrival of Renault Twizys imported by Eurocar, now up for use by Groupama Team France.

It is understood that the miniature vehicles will ultimately go to hotels for use by visitors after the sailing is over.

The legislation, announced last July, initially proved a difficult sell, with taxi drivers protesting that the move posed unwelcome competition for their industry.

But their modest engine size and limited capacity for luggage made them unlikely rivals for cabbies, Mr Fahy said.

A “long period of consideration and consultation” led to the regulations, covering licensing and running of minicar liveries, to become law.

The 2016 Bill prompted a weekend work stoppage, as well as a demonstration outside Parliament by about 30 taxi drivers, followed by a series of meetings before the regulations were agreed upon in November of last year, with the Motor Car Act 1951 subsequently amended.

It was ultimately approved by the Senate on December 12, 2016.

The vehicles allowed are covered two-seaters, no more than 60 inches wide and no more than 115 inches in length.

While many visitors rent vehicles, Mr Fahy said not all were comfortable taking to the roads on an auxiliary cycle or moped.

The regulations set the terms to apply for livery licences, and set standards, including the requirement for public liability insurance. The vehicles will be subject to Transport Control Department inspection, with a yearly check between January 1 and March 31.

Similar to rental cycles, minicar licence plates will bear red lettering on a white background, at both the front and back of the car — with stickers warning drivers to keep left.

“At present a minicar can only be on the road for five years but, as minister, I have the discretion to extend that period provided the vehicle continues to be in good shape,” Mr Fahy said.

“Every livery operator must have a qualified driving instructor on staff to demonstrate the use of the minicar and that person will sit in the minicar when the renter takes it for a ‘test drive’.

“TCD will qualify the instructors to ensure they provide the driving instruction that you need for the minicar.”

Safety instructions will include the basic rules of Bermuda’s roads, the speed limit of 35kph, and the strong penalties for impaired driving.