Could e-scooters soon have a presence on city streets? Maybe, if two City Council members have their way: In an op-ed for the New York Daily News, Ydanis Rodriguez and Rafael Espinal made the case for bringing the newly popular mode of transportation to New York City, citing the city’s ongoing transit woes—a broken subway system, slow-as-molasses buses, and more—as reason to let scooters in.
“[W]e must rapidly integrate innovative solutions that can get New Yorkers around the city safely, affordably and emission-free,” the council members wrote.
Per the Daily News, they plan to introduce legislation next month before the City Council to legalize e-scooters, paving the way for a possible pilot program or other introduction of the service into the five boroughs.
“Scooters are not any less safer than bicycles and there’s no reason why the city should get in the way of allowing the introduction of new modes of transportation,” Espinal told the Daily News.
Even as e-scooters have surged in popularity in other U.S. cities, they remain illegal in New York City—the result, Espinal noted, of a law that sought to keep Segways off of city streets. The law, passed by the City Council in 2004, bans all forms of motorized scooters and imposes a $500 fine on those caught using them. (That hasn’t stopped some folks from taking Bird scooters out in the city.) Previously, the city’s Department of Transportation has held a hard line on that law, but a spokesperson told the Daily News that the agency is “not outright opposed” to exploring e-scooters as a transit option.
There are obvious challenges to bringing e-scooters to New York’s congested streets, namely safety—they’re intended for use in bike lanes, but users in other cities haven’t always followed that rule—and where to put them. It took the city until this year to try dockless bike sharing, and electric pedal-assist bikes, which reach a top speed of around 20 miles per hour, were only legalized in July as part of that pilot program.
But there are plenty of reasons to explore scooters as a transit option, not least of which is the looming L train shutdown; scooters could, in theory, help commuters get from station to station, or other transit options, while the shutdown is underway.
And as Transportation Alternatives’ Paul Steely White told the Daily News, the micromobility revolution is already coming—and New Yorkers shouldn’t be left behind. “The world is coming around to the merits of small, efficient transportation and the city needs to catch up,” he said.