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Cuomo details plan for legalizing e-bikes, e-scooters in New York

Published January 23, 2020

ALBANY, N.Y. (BRAIN) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced his plan Thursday to make e-bikes and e-scooters legal in New York, following the release of his executive budget two days ago.

Cuomo's proposal gives local governments the right to establish additional regulations, including a lower maximum speed and banning e-bikes and e-scooters completely.

The legislation includes:

  • Defining Class 1 as pedal-assist with maximum speed of 20 mph.
  • Defining Class 2 as throttle-assist with maximum speed of 20 mph.
  • Defining Class 3 as throttle-assist (allowed only in New York City) with maximum speed of 25 mph. 
  • Requiring all Class 3 e-bike riders wear helmets.
  • Empowering localities to require helmets for Class 1 and Class 2 riders.
  • A maximum speed limit of 15 mph on e-scooters.
  • Prohibiting e-bike and e-scooter use on sidewalks.
  • Requiring e-bike and e-scooter users to be 16 or older.
  • Requiring all e-scooter riders under 18 to wear helmets.

Currently, only Class 1 pedal-assist e-bikes are allowed in New York City. The proposed legislation defines Class 3 e-bikes differently from the bicycle industry: pedal-assist and turning off at 28 mph. The national bicycle advocacy group PeopleForBikes and bicycle manufacturers' trade association Bicycle Product Suppliers Association developed the standard for the three motor classifications in 2014.

"We need an alternative to automobiles driving in New York City — the volume is paralyzing, the cost is prohibitive and it is environmentally destructive," Cuomo said. "New transportation technologies like e-bikes and e-scooters pose exciting potential as a sustainable alternative to vehicles, but we need clear laws and regulations that put the safety of riders and pedestrians first."

The legislation was applauded by transportation advocates who have maintained the ban was discriminatory to e-bike food delivery workers, who favor throttle-controlled bikes.

"We stand with Gov. Cuomo in support of safe streets and sustainable equitable transportation alternatives," said Danny Harris, Transportation Alternative executive director. "By embracing e-bikes and e-scooters, the governor is advancing opportunity for all New Yorkers, including 40,000 delivery workers who have been subject to harassment simply for using the most efficient means to complete their jobs."

The next step is for Cuomo and the state legislature to agree on the budget by April 1. Cuomo said Thursday he is hopeful the state legislature would pass it before then, citing New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's enforcement of e-bike food delivery workers, who can be fined as much as $500 and have their bikes seized.

"This legislation will create important speed and operating measures for these technologies that will provide clarity for everyone and end the arbitrary enforcement of vague laws that has posed substantial hardship on immigrant delivery workers, while enabling all delivery workers to do their work safely and more efficiently," Cuomo said.

On Dec. 26, Cuomo vetoed the state legislature's bill that would have given all classes of e-bikes the same rights of the road as traditional bicycles throughout the state. He cited the lack of a helmet requirement and other safety concerns for killing it. The bill, passed over the summer by the state legislature, would have given local municipalities the right to regulate e-bikes and e-scooters at their discretion.

All classes of e-bikes soon could be legal in the state of New York.

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