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NYC draws closer to legalizing e-scooters, e-bikes thanks to state bill

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The bill would allow municipalities—including New York City—to move forward in legalizing the electric rides

Controversial E-Scooters Around Los Angeles Stir Debate And Anger
A rider on a Bird scooter in California.
Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

State Sen. Jessica Ramos and state Assembly member Nily Rozic have introduced a bill on Tuesday that would legalize e-scooters and e-bikes in New York State, while allowing cities to take charge of regulating the increasingly popular modes of transit—which would pave the way for them to become legal in NYC.

The passing of the new bill in Albany would take an important step: recognizing e-scooters and e-bikes under state law, so that cities across the state can allow them on their roads. Currently, scooters and throttle e-bikes are not legal in NYC thanks to a law, passed by the City Council in 2004, bans all forms of motorized scooters and imposes a $500 fine on those caught using them.

“For many of my neighbors, who are immigrant delivery workers, using alternative modes of transportation is a matter of livelihood,” Ramos said in a statement. “Especially since we have not yet restored everyone’s right to a drivers license, legalizing e-bikes and e-scooters is a matter of equal access to our streets and our city.”

The State Senate bill would amend the existing laws to include bikes with electric assist as a type of bicycle; define an electric scooter as weighing less than 100 pounds with a speed of no more than 20 miles per hour (among other specifications); define e-scooters and e-bikes not as motor vehicles, but as bicycles; and grant e-scooter and e-bike riders the same rights and duties as bicycle riders.

Defining e-bikes and e-scooters is key, the bill reads, since the lack of definition has “created confusion over how these low-speed devices could be regulated.”

Back in November, City Council members Rafael Espinal and Ydanis Rodriguez introduced a package of bills to legalize e-scooters and throttle e-bikes, but some local officials have expressed concern over the logistics and how those electric rides would be regulated. Momentum has largely stalled since then, but the new state bill could get things moving once again.

“E-scooters and e-bikes will both have a positive impact on New York’s transit landscape by providing safe, affordable, low-emissions alternatives to New Yorkers, especially those stranded in transit deserts,” Espinal said in a statement. “The legislation will also help us end the absurd and discriminatory enforcement regime against delivery workers in our city, who rely on electric bicycles to do their jobs.”