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Governor Cuomo to Legalize E-Bikes in New York, Queens Lawmakers Laud His Decision

Governor Andrew Cuomo presents his fiscal year 2021 Executive Budget in Albany (Darren McGee/ Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)

Jan. 22, 2020 By Allie Griffin

Governor Andrew Cuomo has proposed legislation to legalize most e-bikes and e-scooters as part of his executive budget plan for Fiscal Year 2021.

Cuomo wrote the legislation into his budget that was released Tuesday less than a month after he vetoed two Queens lawmakers’ bill to legalize the electric bikes and scooters because he said it lacked safety requirements.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jessica Ramos in the state senate and Assemblywoman Nily Rozic in the state assembly, passed both houses during last year’s legislative session — but Cuomo took issue with the lack of a helmet requirement.

Cuomo’s proposal, similar to the Queens lawmakers’ bill, would legalize throttle-controlled e-bikes with a top speed of 20 miles per hour and electric scooters with a top speed of 15 miles per hour. It would also legalize throttle-controlled e-bikes that go up to 25 miles per hour in cities of a million or more people.

Like the bill before it, Cuomo’s legislation would preserve the right of cities and townships to regulate the use of the bikes as they see fit — which includes the option to prohibit their use altogether.

New Yorkers must be at least 16 years old to ride the e-bikes and e-scooters and the vehicles are only allowed on roads with a speed limit of 30 miles per hour or less.

The legislation also requires riders of e-bikes that can reach a speed of 25 miles per hour to wear helmets. Riders do not need to wear a helmet on the lower speed bikes — such as those with a top speed of 20 miles per hour.

Pedal-assist bikes — which get a jolt of electric power only when a rider pedals — are already legal in New York City, but the throttle-controlled e-bikes popular with food delivery workers are not.

The City Council couldn’t legalize the throttle-controlled option until the e-bikes were legal in the state.

State Senator Jessica Ramos and Assemblymember Nily Rozic called on Governor Cuomo to sign legislation to legalize e-bikes and e-scooters at a rally in Corona Plaza in December (Sen. Jessica Ramos Office)

Ramos and Rozic introduced the original bill in part to protect delivery workers from being fined $500 and having their throttle-controlled e-bikes confiscated in the city.

Supporters of e-bikes say the fines are unfair to delivery workers — who are largely low-income immigrants — who rely on this type of bike to make a living.

“I am pleased that following several discussions with advocates and the Governor’s office, we have a budget proposal paving the way for the long-awaited legalization of electric bicycles and scooters,” Assemblywoman Rozic said in a statement.

“This agreement honors the original intent and addresses safety concerns that have been raised over the past several months.”

Advocates also applauded Gov. Cuomo’s legislation.

“Once approved, this legislation will pave the way for safe, sustainable transportation alternatives,” Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Danny Harris said. “With e-bikes and e-scooters, more New Yorkers can access opportunity while helping to address the ills associated with traffic congestion in the five boroughs and beyond.”

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