<< Back

Transportation & Environment

Legalization of e-bikes and e-scooters in New York City

At the regularly scheduled monthly Community Board Five meeting on Thursday, July 11, 2019, the following resolution passed with a vote of 38 in favor; 0 opposed; 1 abstaining:

WHEREAS, The New York State Assembly and State Senate have passed A7431B and S5294A, which, if enacted, would classify and legalize electric bicycles (“e-bikes”) and electric scooters (“e-scooters”) in the State of New York, as well as share programs for these devices in areas of the state that are not Manhattan, contingent on approval at the municipal level; and

WHEREAS, Legislation has been introduced in the City Council, including Intro. 1250, Intro. 1264, Intro. 1265, and Intro. 1266, which would, among other things: classify and legalize e-scooters, pedal-assist e-bikes (“Class 1”), and throttle-powered e-bikes (“Class 2”) in New York City, create an e-scooter share program pilot in New York City, and offer financial assistance to disadvantaged workers for the conversion of throttle-powered Class 2 devices to pedal-assist Class 1 devices; and

WHEREAS, Intro. 1250 and Intro. 1264 would legalize e-scooters and throttle-powered e-bikes for street use in New York City; and

WHEREAS, Pedal-assist e-bikes are currently the only motorized vehicle in New York City that is legal to operate under the rules applicable to bicycles; and

WHEREAS, Electric devices can be equipped with a governor-regulated speed, but are also technically able to reach higher speeds with basic adjustments, such as pedal-assist Class 1 e-bikes with a typical maximum speed of 15 mph, throttle-powered Class 2 e-bikes that can reach up to 28 mph, and scooters, electrified or otherwise, which can exceed speeds of 15 mph; and

WHEREAS, As the city’s central business district, Manhattan Community District 5 has an extremely high concentration of protected bike lanes that currently carry various types of two-wheel human-powered traffic, including commuters and food deliveries; and

WHEREAS, Community Board Five recognizes the need for balanced, multi-modal street use, and recognizes the benefits of greater transportation alternatives, including emissions reduction, improved air quality, energy conservation, reduction of street congestion, economic growth benefits, and improved safety; and

WHEREAS, Community Board Five also recognizes both current and prospective safety concerns that stem from any mode of transportation the rules for which are not appropriately regulated and enforced, including long-standing concerns about collisions involving bicyclists that are electric or otherwise with large vehicles such as cars and trucks, and with mobility-challenged pedestrians such as seniors, the disabled, children, parents pushing strollers, people with walkers, and people with shopping carts; and

WHEREAS, Any motorized vehicle must be appropriately regulated by speed, lane of use, and manner of use, with each determined and enforced relative to their size and speed, including ensuring the prohibition of fully throttle-powered e-bikes from the bike lane and its regulation as a motor vehicle; and

WHEREAS, New York State currently requires all non-human-powered motorized vehicles to register with the Department of Motor Vehicles, although throttle-operated e-bikes, which have neither a license nor a vehicle identification number (VIN), cannot currently be registered and thus cannot be identified for the purposes of enforcement; and

WHEREAS, Current enforcement of both human-powered bicycles and electric devices such as throttle-powered e-bikes is both sporadic and unevenly applied, with bike riders sometimes unfairly penalized and treated abusively; and

WHEREAS, Both current conditions and any expanded small vehicle use in New York City will require the introduction of appropriate enforcement and fines to regulate these vehicles, including but not limited to using the wrong lanes, going the wrong way on one-way streets, using the sidewalk, going through red lights, and other infractions, many of which occur currently; and

WHEREAS, Enforcement of safe ownership and operation of electric devices will require a fundamental rethinking of the institutions used to license and register operators and a rethinking of enforcement methods used by the NYPD to ensure safe operation in the spaces in which they operate, the speeds at which they can safely operate, and the manner in which they are operated; and

WHEREAS, Intro. 1265 would establish a citywide program to enable low-income workers with income not exceeding 200% of the federal poverty line (i.e., delivery workers using throttle-operated e-bikes) to convert their illegal Class 2 throttle-powered e-bikes to Class 1 pedal-assist e-bikes by providing financial and other assistance; and

WHEREAS Food delivery workers are the largest user group of illegal throttle-operated e-bikes, which, they purport, enable them to meet customer demands and maintain their livelihood, and who argue that the current prohibition on throttle-powered e-bikes exposes them to frequent stops by NYPD personnel, resulting in confiscation of their vehicle and expensive penalties incurred by the individual; and

WHEREAS, Community Board Five recognizes that it is necessary to establish balance between delivery workers’ essential transportation needs and livelihood, and the need to protect pedestrians and regular bicyclists from motorized vehicles with higher speeds and heavier frames than regular bikes; and

WHEREAS, Intro. 1266 would create a shared e-scooter rental pilot program to evaluate the impact and need for e-scooters, most likely conducted in neighborhoods underserved by transit, for a period of one to two years; and

WHEREAS, E-scooter share programs as piloted in other American cities are dockless, such that the
devices can be left anywhere and are often found obstructing sidewalks, bicycle lanes, traffic lanes,
medians, and other crucial public spaces; and

WHEREAS, Infrastructure for e-scooters is non-existent in New York City, either in terms of parking or
dedicated travel spaces, which can and does lead to encroachment on sidewalks or bike paths and
dangerously obstructing pedestrian and bicycle passage; and

WHEREAS, Community Board Five recognizes that scooter share programs can provide much benefit
particularly in transit deserts, such as outer boroughs, that are not well-served by public transit or Citi
Bike to assist low-income commuters, reduce pollution, save energy, and lessen automobile congestion,
but equally provide less benefit and greater chance of abandonment and obstacle in districts of greater
density, close public transportation options and limited public space, such as Manhattan; and

WHEREAS, Community Board Five is the densest and most congested business district in the city, where
sidewalk space is already at a premium and often filled to capacity, and where both sidewalk and street
congestion are rampant and dangerous; therefore be it

RESOLVED, Community Board Five opposes legalization of e-scooters and e-bikes in the borough of
Manhattan until such time that the City Council can prevail upon the state legislature to require the
Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to license and register electric vehicles and their operators,
establish assigned speed limits, establish assigned lanes so that no electric or motorized vehicle may
operate on sidewalks, create clear operational regulations for each vehicle class, and provide enforcement
of those rules and regulations; and be it further

RESOLVED, Community Board Five supports the decision of the state legislature to ban e-scooter share
programs in the borough of Manhattan; and be it further

RESOLVED, Community Board Five urges the NYPD to improve enforcement through the creation of a
two-wheel enforcement unit to oversee regulation of all two-wheeled and other alternative vehicles,
collect fines, issue tickets, establish rules, and run a bicycle-patrol force, geared to the particular nature
and needs of safely policing such vehicles; and be it further

RESOLVED, Community Board Five supports the creation of financial assistance to aid low-income
workers in the conversion of illegal throttle-powered devices to approved pedal-assist bikes—with
governor regulated speeds—as well as legislation mandating an increased living wage for delivery
workers and action to make business owners or third-party delivery companies the liable party for
enforcement of illegal operation of e-bikes by their employees or contractors, rather than the delivery
persons themselves; and be it further

RESOLVED, Community Board Five calls for any legislation considered by the City Council on the
legalization of e-scooters, e-bikes, and share programs to be decoupled and considered as individual bills
separated by device class and program.

Sign Up For Our Newsletter