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Cuomo vetoes New York e-bike and e-scooter legislation

Published December 27, 2019
Governor says he will work to introduce another bill in January with an emphasis on e-bike safety.

NEW YORK (BRAIN) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed a bill Thursday that would give all classes of e-bikes the same rights of the road as traditional bicycles throughout the state. Only Class 1 pedal-assist e-bikes will still be allowed in the city.

In a tweet after his decision, Cuomo said he will propose a new e-bike bill in January.

"There is no need for us to choose between legalizing e-bikes and safety, and I will propose a bill that does both on January 8," Cuomo tweeted late Thursday.

Despite the e-bike and e-scooter bill's passing in the state legislature over the summer, Cuomo cited the failure to have a helmet and other safety requirements for killing the bill.

"Failure to include these basic measures renders this legislation fatally flawed," Cuomo said. "Specifically with respect to e-bikes, the throttle motor that allows a rider to increase speed without pedaling renders e-bikes indistinguishable from mopeds, which are already regulated and require license plates and driver's licenses."

An e-bike motor is limited to 1 horsepower (750 watts).

The bill, which had faced a Dec. 31 deadline to become law, would have given local municipalities the right to regulate e-bikes and e-scooters at their discretion.

The legislation recognized three classes of e-bikes: pedal-assist and throttle-control with 20 mph maximum speed and throttle-control with 25 mph maximum speed. E-scooters would have been capped at 20 mph. Riders would need to be at least 16 years old, and local municipalities would decide if they would be allowed on sidewalks. E-scooters would not have been allowed in Manhattan because it's the city's busiest borough.

Cuomo expressed safety concerns and the use of electric transportation on public sidewalks before his veto. In addition, an increasing number of city food delivery workers are using throttle-powered e-bikes. Mayor Bill de Blasio began an initiative in 2014 to curb dangerous driving, which included e-bike riders. Throttle-activated e-bike riders can be fined as much as $500 and can have their bikes seized.

Morgan Lommele, director of state and local policy for PeopleForBikes, said the group asked the Cuomo administration to amend and improve the bill before signing. "PeopleForBikes provided specific legislative changes to include in the bill, and that would have made it consistent with other states and a friendlier bill for bike retailers and the bike industry," Lommele said. "We also discussed the bill with officials from New York City, with the hope of winning additional support for our amendments and buy-in from the city on the legalization of e-bikes as defined by our class system."

PeopleForBikes recognizes Class 1 e-bikes as those providing assistance only when the rider is pedaling and turn off when reaching 20 mph; Class 2 bikes featuring a throttle-activated motor that turns off when reaching 20 mph; Class 3 bikes providing assistance only when pedaling and turn off when reaching 28 mph and allowed only roadways.

Lommele said the bill had several flaws making it inconsistent with other states. The bill was "difficult for e-bike riders and regulators to understand where electric bicycles could be lawfully ridden, and prohibited certain actions that make e-bikes a useful tool for transportation and recreation," she said. "The core issues were that it defined Class 3 e-bikes differently from the model system (throttle-powered up to 25 mph), the rules regarding where e-bikes could be ridden on bike paths were confusing and restrictive, and prohibited e-bike passengers younger than the age of 16."

In a tweet following Cuomo's decision, Transportation Alternatives, a nonprofit group advocating for bicycle and pedestrian rights in New York City, expressed disapproval.

"We are disappointed that Governor Cuomo declined to approve this legislation, which had the support of numerous stakeholders, from transportation, environmental and immigration advocates, to local lawmakers and — above all — food delivery workers," tweeted Executive Director Danny Harris.

Harris said Cuomo decision hurt immigrants who depend on throttle-activated e-bikes for their livelihood.

"Governor Cuomo, a supposed champion for immigrants and the working poor, has failed to protect 40,000 low-wage, mostly immigrant workers in New York. In vetoing this legislation, Governor Cuomo has refused to deliver justice for working cyclists who have been targeted and harassed for using e-bikes to do their jobs."

Lommele said the fight for acceptance for all e-bikes will continue despite the setback.

"There's still work to do in New York in 2020 to find a way to legalize the three classes of e-bikes, make sure that delivery workers can do their jobs without the fear or police reprisal and that create an easy to understand riding environment for all those who wish to sell and ride an e-bike," Lommele said. "We plan to work with the administration, legislators and all stakeholders in 2020 to create a bill that is an outstanding update to New York's laws for electric bicycles." 

Topics associated with this article: Electric bike

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