After vetoing a bill that would legalize e-bikes and e-scooters late last year, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that he will legalize them this year if his budget is passed unscathed.
Cuomo made the announcement on Tuesday during his annual budget address. “Let's also in this budget ban single-use Styrofoam. Let's expand e-bikes and e-scooters. And let's make the fracking ban permanent once and for all,” Cuomo said, outlining a $33 billion push to fight climate change that stems from last year’s passage of a major climate bill.
The language is very similar to the bill the governor vetoed, sponsored by Queens State Senator Jessica Ramos and Assemblymember Nily Rozic, except that it requires operators of e-bikes that travel up to 25 mph to wear helmets. Cuomo's initial e-bike proposal in last year's budget had more expansive helmet laws, and the governor used the lack of a helmet requirement in the legislation to justify his veto (all commercial cyclists in New York City are already required to wear helmets).
“Our goal has always been to provide overdue clarity in the law to deliver economic justice for delivery workers while introducing new transit options that could improve connectivity to existing transit networks,” Rozic said in a statement. “This agreement honors the intent and addresses safety concerns that have been raised over the past several months.”
The law divides e-bikes into three categories—Class 1 pedal-assist models with a top speed of 20 mph, Class 2 throttle models with a top speed of 20 mph, and Class 3 throttle bikes with a top speed of 25 mph. Electric bike and e-scooter ridership is restricted to New Yorkers 16 and older, but e-scooter operators under the age of 18 are required to use a helmet. While it is illegal to operate either kind of vehicle impaired, harsh DWI penalties are only triggered in the event of a collision. Transporting children on e-bikes is also permitted.
E-scooter speeds are capped at 15 mph, and the legislation contains a provision demanded by Manhattan State Senator Liz Krueger that bans e-scooter share companies from operating in Manhattan. Scooter share systems can operate anywhere else so long as the local authority permits it. Localities have the ability to restrict and even ban e-bikes and e-scooters under the legislation. Both e-bike and e-scooter riders will use bike lanes when possible.
The law would go into effect immediately upon passage of the budget, which generally happens by April 1st.
Advocates had urged the governor to sign the legislation last year to end the current double standard of e-bike enforcement on New York City streets. While the more expensive pedal-assisted e-bike models used by Citi Bike and Amazon are legal, the throttle-based e-bikes favored by immigrant delivery cyclists are not. Mayor Bill de Blasio has overseen a two year crackdown on the throttle bikes—the NYPD confiscates them, and the delivery workers, many of whom earn around $10/hour, must pay $500 to get them back.
Danny Harris, the executive director for Transportation Alternatives, praised the governor and the lawmakers for their leadership on the issue.
“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,” Harris said.
You can read the full proposal below.