Legalizing Electric Bicycles and Scooters in New York

A few weeks ago, State Senator Jessica Ramos and Assemblywoman Nily Rozic introduced legislation to legalize the use of electric bicycles and scooters across New York State. This legislation would create official classifications for e-bikes and e-scooters, while still allowing local authority over streets and sidewalks by letting municipalities decide whether or not they want to integrate these low-emission transit options into their transportation networks. 

Under current New York State law, e-bikes are considered to be motorized vehicles and cannot be used on streets, while e-scooters are in a legal gray area. In New York City, a law passed in 2004 sets a fine of $500 for riding e-bikes and authorizes police officers to impound those vehicles.

The proposed state legislation would amend existing vehicle laws by defining e-bikes not as motor vehicles, but as bicycles, and creating a new classification for e-scooters. This would grant e-bike and scooter riders the same rights and duties as bicycle riders. In addition, it would limit their maximum speed to 28 miles per hour for e-bikes and 20 miles per hour for e-scooters.

Legalizing e-bikes and e-scooters will provide New Yorkers with viable transportation options that are available, affordable, and environmentally friendly. Transportation is responsible for more than 30% of NYC’s greenhouse gas emissions and is the number one source of pollution in the state. In order to reduce these emissions, we need a more reliable mass transit system and policies that incentivize people to use low-carbon, city-friendly modes of transportation such as e-bikes and e-scooters.

Legalizing e-bikes would also help protect immigrant workers. Many delivery workers in New York depend on e-bikes, but a survey from 2017 gathered by the Biking Public Project revealed that approximately 60% of Asian and Latino delivery workers in NYC have had their e-bicycles confiscated.

Even though many different legislators and advocates have been working on this issue since at least 2012, New York is one of the last states in the country that still has not legalized e-bikes and e-scooters.

NYLCV strongly supports this bill because it would help New York reduce emissions from the transportation sector. Reducing these emissions and expanding our mobility options have long been among the top priorities for NYLCV in our State Policy Agenda. Legalizing e-bikes and e-scooters would help reduce traffic congestion, enhance air quality, and make our streets more livable while removing antiquated restrictions on working-class families.