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E-scooter legalization stalls in New York, but New Jersey offers roadmap

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What can NYC learn from Hoboken’s e-scooter program?

Lime electric scooters in Hoboken, New Jersey.
Gary Hershorn/Getty Images

New York City is still waiting on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign a bill that would legalize electric scooters, but across the Hudson, residents of Hoboken, New Jersey are calling on officials to extend the city’s e-scooter share program after a popular pilot, according to new data released by Hoboken’s Department of Transportation and Parking.

State legislation overwhelmingly passed by lawmakers in Albany in June would bring electric scooters to the five boroughs—technically, four; the legislation prohibits scooter shares from Manhattan—but is stalled in the state Senate at Cuomo’s request. That hasn’t stopped cities from across New York from preparing for the motorized two-wheelers with Rochester, Yonkers, and Ithaca making moves to welcome the scooters.

A mere mile away from Manhattan in Hoboken, the first city in New Jersey to allow riders to rent e-scooters, officials are assessing the results of its six-months pilot program and offering lessons for those preparing to embark on similar paths.

More than 673,000 trips were taken during the Hoboken pilot with a median six minute ride on the Ojo and Lime operated scooters. A survey released by Hoboken officials on November 25 showed that, overall, users reported driving less, taking fewer taxis trips, and scaling back on their ride hail app use during the rental program. Of the 2,100 people who participated in the survey between October 23 and November 10, 64 percent said e-scooters made it easier to get around, 73 percent said the two wheelers helped connect them to public transit, and 74.5 percent said they wanted the e-scooter sharing program to continue or continue with improvements.

But the scooters have also drawn criticism about the recklessness of some riders who roll on sidewalks or while drunk; the latter would be illegal in New York. Others cite piles of scooters haphazardly tossed on sidewalks, parks, and plazas as a public hazard.

So how could New York City learn from this? When it comes to crafting a smoother roll out, of those who participated in the November survey, 68 percent to be exact, said they agreed or strongly agreed that e-scooters should be better regulated and 60 percent want to see stronger enforcement. Most riders said they preferred to ride on city streets, but 88 percent said they would feel safer rolling in protect bikes lanes, and 55 percent said safe infrastructure would encourage them to ride more often. Some 44 percent of those surveyed said they would like to see safe infrastructure in place for future programs.

An official study of the pilot, commissioned by Hoboken, is currently underway, and the city has also issued a request for information from micromobility companies for a new e-scooter share program.

The future is less clear for the two wheelers in New York. Jason Conwall, a spokesperson for Gov. Cuomo, said the legislation is being reviewed to ensure it is “responsible, enforceable and accomplish [its] intended purpose.”

Once the bills are formally sent to Cuomo, he will have 10 business days to sign or veto the legislation. If sent within the last 10 days of the year, the bill could be signed, vetoed, or effectively vetoed if left unsigned after a review period of 30 days. If Cuomo signs the bill, The City Council would still need to pass its own, already-introduced, legislation to legalize the e-scooter share systems.

Conwall referred Curbed to comments Cuomo made on the bill while speaking at a June press conference where he flagged safety concerns.

“That’s a bill that’s going to need more review and discussion,” Cuomo said. “When does a bike with an engine become a bike that should be registered as a motor vehicle, and licensed? ... These E-bikes are new, but I think that’s going to be the broader conversation.”