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City Council Legalizes E-Bikes, E-Scooters

Photo: Stock Unsplash

June 25, 2020 By Christian Murray

The New York City Council passed legislation Thursday that legalizes the operation of most e-bicycles and e-scooters.

The legislation is a long time coming but the council had to wait for Albany to pass legislation allowing municipalities to approve their use. That took place earlier this year after much prompting by Queens legislators State Sen. Jessica Ramos and Assembly Member Nily Rozic.

The council essentially codified what the state passed earlier this year.

The legislation passed today legalizes e-bikes with a top speed of 25 miles per hour and e-scooters with a maximum speed of 20 miles per hour.

The rules governing e-bikes and e-scooters have been murky in New York City for some time. Up until now, pedal-assisted e-bikes were legal but throttle-powered e-bikes and scooters were not.

The throttle-powered e-bikes are popular with food delivery people.

The NYPD, with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s backing, had a history of confiscating throttle-powered e-bikes– and ticketing workers riding them. Both the mayor and NYPD were heavily criticized for doing so.

Council Member Costa Constantinides lauded the council for its vote today.

“I am proud to be part of a city council that continues to adapt and innovate based on the evolutions of our streetscape,” Constantinides said. “E-bikes and e-scooters have become an environmentally friendlier way to meet the rush of meal delivery demands, first brought about by online-ordering apps and then the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The council also passed legislation requiring the Department of Transportation to set up an e-scooter share pilot program—like Citi Bike—outside of Manhattan.

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Miggie Warms

There is supposed to be a 5 mph speed limit for motorized bikes on a Jackson Heights Avenue (34th Avenue) that has been closed off to most traffic during daytime hours (8 AM to 8 PM.) I walked a couple of blocks on the avenue for the first time today and, sure enough, some idiot on a motorized bike or motorcycle was traveling MUCH faster than 5 mph, though probably not as fast as the 25 mph speed limit that is in effect on most city streets that have not been closed off to traffic. This was disconcerting, to say the least, as these blocks have become what are essentially “play streets” on which, except for stopping at the corners to obey traffic signals to allow for vehicular cross-traffic, kids and adults should be able to walk and play safely. There is no enforcement of the 5 mph speed limit.

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