Electric Bikes and Scooters Expected to Be Legalized in New York

June 18, 2019

By Rebecca Heilweil

On Wednesday, New York lawmakers are expected to vote in favor of a bill legalizing e-scooters and e-bikes throughout the state, legislation Governor Andrew Cuomo appears likely to sign.

The law should be a win for e-scooters advocates, but will come with a key stipulation: municipalities will decide whether share e-scooter and e-bike share companies ー such as Lime, Jump, and Bird ー will be allowed to operate on their streets. The vehicles will also be banned on sidewalks.

New York follows New Jersey, which legalized the vehicles just last month.

“The real goal for this city should be to encourage forms of transportation that are sustainable, that do not claim 200-plus lives every year," Marco Connor, the interim director of Transportation Alternatives, a non-profit that aims to reduce transportation by car and truck, told Cheddar. “What is actually causing the congestion on New York City streets are large cars and trucks.”

While city police have cracked down on the illegal use of e-scooters, critics argue that the effort has disproportionately targeted immigrant delivery workers.

“We already have e-bikes on New York streets. There are an estimated 30,000 food delivery workers who use e-bikes every single day to deliver food to hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers,” he added. “What has been illegal for several years are the types [of bikes] that most food delivery workers are using to deliver food. And the NYPD has cracked down severely on that in recent years.”

Last year, New York legalized “pedal-assist bikes,” electric bikes that cannot travel more than 20 mph. Most delivery workers favor the electric “throttle” bikes that are expected to be legalized by New York’s new legislation.

The legislation comes despite accusations of safety issues that have plagued e-scooter companies. “When people talk about being afraid of being struck on the street, what we should be worried about are multi-ton cars and trucks, not these small devices,” says Connor.

Working with the Center for Disease Control, the Austin Public Health and Transportation departments found that there are 20 injuries for every 100,000 shared electric scooter rides, after studying nearly one million rides.

One problem is that companies have struggled to make certain that riders, especially those using shared services, wear safety gear. In one study of e-scooter use in Southern California, only 4.4 percent of 249 riders sent to the emergency room were wearing a helmet at the time of their injuries.