New York hits the brakes on e-bikes

Lime is among the companies participating in a Department of Transportation pilot program for dockless e-bikes.
Lime is among the companies participating in a Department of Transportation pilot program for dockless e-bikes.
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Lime is among the companies participating in a Department of Transportation pilot program for dockless e-bikes.

New York hits the brakes on e-bikes

A proposal that would have allowed localities to decide for themselves whether to legalize e-scooters and throttle e-bikes was dropped from the state budget.
April 4, 2019

For all of the exciting, progressive measures passed in New York’s budget, steps toward legalizing e-bikes and e-scooters weren’t among them.

In January, Gov. Andrew Cuomo included a line in his executive budget that would have allowed localities to decide for themselves whether to legalize e-scooters and throttle e-bikes – which, unlike pedal-assist e-bikes, are still illegal in New York. But as Gothamist reported earlier this week, that proposal was quietly dropped from the finalized budget crafted by the governor and Democratic legislative leaders, despite increasing support at both the city and state level.

While a package of New York City Council bills related to legalizing e-bikes and e-scooters is still on the table, both Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council member Rafael Espinal – one of the sponsors of the legislation – maintain that action is required in Albany first.

Welcoming e-scooters and throttle e-bikes into New York City is not an easy decision; while it’s not entirely surprising that the issue was abandoned in a heated round of budget negotiations, New York hasn’t escaped the pressure to act in the short-term. The city has been accused of confiscating and ticketing throttle e-bikes in a way that disproportionately harms delivery cyclists, many of whom are immigrants, rather than the businesses that employ them.

A separate investigation by Gothamist revealed that despite a directive from de Blasio to target businesses in their crackdown on e-bikes, the New York Police Department has continued to fine cyclists. The full legalization of throttle e-bikes and e-scooters could make this particular problem go away, but if New York isn’t ready to make that move, another short-term solution for effective policing will likely be necessary.

For the rest of today's tech news, head over to First Read Tech.

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