Governor touts his own bill to legalize e-bikes and scooters in New York

A delivery man stands on Ninth Avenue near 53th Street, with an e-bike.

A month after he vetoed an electronic bike legalization bill that state lawmakers approved last year, Governor Andrew Cuomo presented his own plans Thursday for e-bike and scooter reforms.

No helmet requirements and higher speed limits in the original legislation were factors Cuomo attributed to his decision to veto, but now he says he’s “all for it” when it comes to his bills, which allows for speeds up to 25 miles per hour and makes protective headwear obligatory for certain riders.

The Thursday press conference at the governor’s Manhattan office was a follow-up to his budget address on Jan. 21 in which he said funding for an e-bike and scooter legalization bill would be in the pipeline.

“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,” Cuomo said. “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.”

The news reached advocates who celebrated a victory — even if it wasn’t completely like the original bill they had championed since 2018. That year, Mayor Bill de Blasio changed the administrative code to ban motorized bikes, primarily utilized by working class immigrants to deliver food.

But de Blasio has deferred to the state in lifting the ban on e-bikes and scooters, as Albany has the real authority legislate what type of vehicles are road legal.

The original bill’s roots go deep in Queens where it was introduced by state Senator Jessica Ramos and Assemblywoman Nily Rozic.

“The push to legalize e-bikes and e-scooters has enjoyed the support of a broad coalition of stakeholders, from immigration advocates and local lawmakers to environmental justice activists and food delivery workers,” Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Danny Harris said Jan. 21. “In New York City, working cyclists who rely on e-bikes to complete their rounds have been targeted and harassed. We expect Mayor de Blasio and the NYPD to end their misguided e-bike crackdown once this budget is approved.”

According to the governor’s office, the outline of his e-bike bill are as follows:

  • Setting a maximum speed limit of 20 miles per hour on Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes and 25 miles per hour on Class 3 e-bikes,
  • A maximum speed limit of 15 miles per hour on scooters,
  • Prohibiting e-bike and scooter use on sidewalks,
  • Requiring e-bike and scooter users to be 16 years of age or older
  • Mandating all Class 3 e-bike riders to wear helmets
  • Mandating all e-scooter riders under 18 to wear helmets
  • Empowering localities to mandate helmet requirements for Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes

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