City Council shifts gears on e-bike legalization

Ydanis Rodriguez chairs the city council transportation committee
Ydanis Rodriguez chairs the city council transportation committee
Emil Cohen for the New York City Council
Ydanis Rodriguez chairs the City Council meeting on e-bike legalization.

City Council shifts gears on e-bike legalization

The Transportation Committee convened to discuss the question of legalizing electric bikes and scooters.
January 24, 2019

The City Council Transportation Committee convened on Wednesday to discuss a package of bills dealing with the question of legalizing electric bikes and scooters in New York City, where, to the dismay of some delivery workers, the vehicles are still illegal. Advocates of e-bikes and e-scooters have City Council members Rafael Espinal Jr. and Fernando Cabrera on their side as staunch supporters of the legalization effort, arguing that the vehicles are affordable, green, and safe.

While Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s new budget opens the road for e-bikes and e-scooters by creating categories for each, there may be multiple steps left to take before we see the vehicles (legally) on city streets. The governor’s plan would turn to localities to decide whether or not to authorize the use of the vehicles and how to regulate them, but on Wednesday, city Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said that there is still action required at the state level to legalize them.

Should that happen, long-brewing tensions in New York City are likely to come to a head over the question of authorization, with Mayor Bill de Blasio citing safety threats that e-bikes and e-scooters may pose, and advocates pointing to immigrant delivery workers as the people most hurt by tickets for e-bike violations.

“We cannot continue to fine these hard-working New Yorkers who, every day when they interact with law enforcement, are more at risk of being deported and ending up in jail,” Councilman Espinal said at a rally outside City Hall on Wednesday. “We have to move forward, catch up with the times.”

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Annie McDonough
Annie McDonough
is a tech and policy reporter at City & State.
20200219