What’s next for e-bikes in New York?

Lime e-bikes outside of the Empire Outlets mall in Staten Island.
Lime e-bikes outside of the Empire Outlets mall in Staten Island.
rblfmr/Shutterstock
Lime e-bikes outside of the Empire Outlets mall in Staten Island.

What’s next for e-bikes in New York?

E-bike advocates are pushing back after Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoes a bill to legalize e-bikes and e-scooters.
January 2, 2020

Gov. Andrew Cuomo may have waited until after Christmas Day to deal a blow to supporters of e-bike and e-scooter legalization in New York, vetoing a bill on Dec. 26 that would have legalized the vehicles and allowed localities to set their own rules for how they could be used. But with a new session of the state Legislature set to begin next week, it’s already time to ask what options are open to those supporters in the new year. 

In his veto of the legislation, which was sponsored by state Sen. Jessica Ramos and Assemblywoman Nily Rozic, Cuomo criticized the bill for not including a helmet requirement and a lower speed limit – two things he had included when proposing the legalization of e-bikes in his budget last January. Many cycling advocates, however, argue against helmet laws, pointing out that requiring helmets has been shown to discourage cycling, leaving fewer cyclists on the road and working against the principle of safety in numbers. Cuomo said last week that he would propose legalizing e-bikes and e-scooters in this year’s budget proposal with those requirements attached. 

In an op-ed co-authored with technologist Emil Skandul, Ramos criticized helmet requirements, calling concerns about helmets “a weak justification for preventing legalization,” and pointing out that delivery cyclists in New York City are already required to wear helmets.

Ramos and Rozic did not respond to the specific question of whether they would support Cuomo’s proposal, but have said they would continue to work on a path forward. “Legalizing e-bikes is urgent,” Ramos said in an emailed statement, adding that delivery workers in particular are hurt by “exorbitant” fines for using the vehicles, which she says are often necessary for their work. “I have expressed my willingness to work with the governor’s office numerous times. We will continue to be open about these discussions and await his expected proposal in the executive budget.”

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