Delivery workers and advocates are urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo to finally sign a bill legalizing e-bikes and e-scooters before its too late.
The bill would in part create a legal three-class system for e-bikes operated with throttle controls—bikes already popular among low-income, immigrant delivery workers in the city who have faced targeted police crackdowns. There was strong support for the legislation when it passed six months ago, but it has since languished.
If Cuomo fails to sign the bill by Dec. 31, it would have to be re-passed next legislative session.
“Even now after the bill was passed delivery workers still receive a lot of tickets,” said De Quan Lu, president of the Chinese Mutual Support Labor Union, through a translator at a rally in Downtown Brooklyn Friday. “They’re still concerned,—they worry a lot on their daily job. In the morning when the start their work they worry about tickets.”
Workers said the bikes have helped ease what is a grueling job that sends them biking tens of miles each day. Advocates support the bikes as a safer and more energy-efficient alternative to cars as well as an option to make cycling more accessible to a wider population of New Yorkers.
“E-bikes make it a lot…easier for a lot more people to be able to make that choice to commute by bike, to do their everyday errands by bike,” said Patrick McClellan, state policy director at the New York League of Conservation Voters. “So this is a very important justice issue for delivery workers but it’s also a very serious environmental issue.”
The governor in June mentioned vague hangups involving safety regulation and helmet use around the bicycles and scooters. His office Friday only said that it is still wading through hundreds of bills that were passed last session.
“There were more than 900 bills that passed both houses at the end of session and over 200 bills remain under review by Counsel’s Office and the Division of the Budget,” said Jason Conwall, spokesman for the governor. “It is our responsibility to ensure that the bills, as written, are responsible, enforceable and accomplish their intended purpose.”
Marco Conner, deputy director at Transportation Alternatives, said a helmet requirement would be “well-intentioned, but misguided” in that it could deter cycling and cripple Citi Bike’s own pedal-assist e-bike fleet.
“The current enforcement against delivery workers causes hardship. their e-bikes are confiscated and they are fined up to $1,000 per incident; this is devastating and far out of proportion for the alleged harm and risk they cause.”
Last year, e-bikes caused .05% of all reported traffic injuries in the city, according to an analysis from advocates.