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Gov. Cuomo vetoes legislation to legalize e-bikes, e-scooters

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Even though the bill passed in the State Senate and Assembly, Cuomo shot it down

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Six months after state lawmakers overwhelmingly voted to legalize e-scooters and electric bikes throughout New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has vetoed the legislation.

In June, the state legislature approved a pair of bills, originally introduced in April by state Sen. Jessica Ramos and Assemblymember Nily Rozic, that sought to make e-bikes (both throttle and pedal-assist) and e-scooters legal in the state. The legislation would have also allowed municipalities to decide how to regulate e-scooter sharing programs.

The bill included some safety and regulatory provisions: E-scooter shares would not have been allowed in Manhattan, and riders under the age of 16 could not be passengers on any e-bikes. But in a memo outlining his reasons for disapproving the bill, Cuomo said that the bill left out safety measures that he wanted included—namely, a helmet requirement. Citing a recent Rutgers study that found that injuries reported from e-scooter use tripled between 2008 and 2017, Cuomo said that “helmets are a common-sense requirement that should be imposed on operators of these vehicles to protect public safety.” (It’s worth noting that helmet requirements typically discourage use of bikes and other modes of transit.)

Cuomo’s memo also cited the recent death of a 16-year-old in Elizabeth, New Jersey, who was hit by a tow truck while riding a scooter, and died as a result of the crash. Elizabeth later ended its contract with Lime, the e-scooter company that was operating in the city.

Rozic, one of the bill’s sponsors, said that she will continue to work on a “path forward” for legislation in the new year.

Micromobility advocates and those who’ve pressed lawmakers to legalize e-bikes—whose illegality has targeted delivery workers throughout New York City—who had celebrated the legislation’s passage over the summer decried Cuomo’s decision to veto the bill.

Others struck a more optimistic tone.

“While it’s disappointing that this important bill will not become law this year, we’re hopeful that the administration will work swiftly with legislative leaders to improve mobility for all New Yorkers early in the New Year,” Phil Jones, the senior government relations director at Lime, said in a statement. “Safety is our top priority and we look forward to discussing with state leaders how to ensure the safest possible environment for micromobility to thrive.”

At the city level, late last year City Council members Rafael Espinal and Ydanis Rodriguez introduced a package of bills to legalize e-scooters and throttle e-bikes, while some local officials have expressed concern over the logistics and how those electric rides would be regulated. But the passing of the state bill would have paved the way for New York City to finally legalize both electric rides.