Dec. 16, 2019 By Allie Griffin
State Senator Jessica Ramos and Assemblywoman Nily Rozic are calling on Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign legislation that would legalize most e-bikes and e-scooters across the state.
The lawmakers, who sponsored a bill that aims to permit the use of throttle-controlled e-bikes and e-scooters, held a rally Friday at Corona Plaza with members of the Deliver Justice Coalition, which includes groups such as Make the Road New York and Transportation Alternatives to put pressure on the governor.
The bill passed both houses of the State Legislature before the close of the session in June and must be signed by Cuomo by the end of the year for it to become law. The law would clearly state that such bikes are legal.
Pedal-assist e-bikes, which get a jolt of electric power only when a rider pedals, are already legal in the city, but the throttle-controlled e-bikes popular with food delivery workers are not. The city has said it wouldn’t change how these bikes are regulated until the state explicitly legalized them.
The state legislation would see most e-bikes and e-scooters regulated like bicycles. However, municipalities–such as the city–would have the power to regulate their use as they choose.
E-scooters that weigh less than a hundred pounds and have a maximum speed of 20 MPH would be legal if the bill is signed into law. Pedal-assist e-bikes with a top speed of 28 MPH and e-bikes that go as fast as 20 MPH without requiring pedaling would be legal.
The bill aims to protect the city’s delivery workers from large fines and confiscations of their e-bikes, often the main source of their livelihood. Many of these workers are low-income immigrants who have been burdened with lost wages, summonses and confiscations due to the current rules outlawing the use of throttle-controlled e-bikes and e-scooters.
Fines typically cost $500 for using a throttle-controlled e-bike or e-scooter in New York City, which can be about a week’s pay for a delivery worker. Business owners whose delivery employees use them can be fined an additional $100.
Without their e-bikes, many often cannot do their job.
Since the bill was passed in the state senate and assembly in June, about 350 summons in New York City have been issued to delivery workers, according to the lawmakers.
“While the city’s crackdown on delivery workers continues putting thousands of immigrant workers at risk, we still have an opportunity to deliver economic justice by signing this bill,” Assemblywoman Rozic said in a statement. “From the criminalization of unregulated e-bikes to transit deserts that could benefit from improved connectivity, we are only one step away from introducing sustainable, micro-mobility options in New York.”
Transit activists also support the legalization of e-bicycles as a safer and cleaner alternative to cars and way to mitigate traffic congestion.
Both e-bicycles and e-scooters are zero emission devices that are affordable options among underserved neighborhoods and low-income communities in transit deserts, the rally organizers said.
“New York is at the crux of a transportation revolution and we have an amazing opportunity to change the lives of thousands of people by legalizing e-bikes and e-scooters and giving them accessible, reliable and environmentally friendly transit alternatives,” Ramos said in a statement. “I’m hopeful that we will deliver justice to all of the delivery workers who look forward to this law as a means to perform their jobs safely and with peace of mind.”
The legislation preserves local authorities to determine the rules and regulations for e-bike and scooter operation, instead of creating rules for the entire state.
“Until Governor Cuomo signs the e-bike bill, immigrant delivery workers remain vulnerable to Mayor de Blasio’s punitive and discriminatory policing of their e-bikes for simply doing their jobs, Do Lee, of Biking Public Project, said. “Governor Cuomo has the opportunity to do what Mayor de Blasio has failed to do, which is to listen to the voices of immigrant delivery workers by signing this bill.”