Cuomo vetoes bill to legalize e-bikes despite overwhelming support

Posted On Fri, December 27, 2019 By

Posted On Fri, December 27, 2019 By In Policy, Transportation

Photo by Peter Burka on Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday vetoed a bill that would have legalized electric bikes and scooters, despite overwhelming support from lawmakers and advocacy groups. Approved by Albany in June, the bill legalized e-bikes and e-scooters, capping their speeds at 25 and 20 miles per hour, respectively, for riders aged 16 years and older. But Cuomo said the bill, sponsored by Assembly Member Nily Rozic and State Sen. Jessica Ramos, left out safety measures he had sought.

Cuomo called the legislation “fatally flawed” without the safety measures he wanted, which included helmet requirements and lower speed limits. In his veto message, the governor cited the death of a 16-year-old boy in Elizabeth, NJ who died after a tow truck hit him while riding a scooter. “E-bikes and e-scooters carry the potential to be a useful tool in changing the way we travel and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. They do, however, carry significant safety concerns,” he wrote.

The legislation would have allowed local governments to ultimately decide whether or not to launch a network of e-bikes and e-scooters in their city, as well as how to regulate them. It also barred an e-scooter system from starting in Manhattan.

Legalizing electric bikes would have helped thousands of food delivery workers, who are often fined $500 for using the electric vehicles, officials argued.

“Our state has failed to help tens of thousands of New Yorkers who desperately need relief from punitive measures taken against them every day for merely doing their job,” Ramos said in a statement. “New York criminalizes delivery workers who are merely trying to make an honest living and slaps them with thousands of dollars in fines, effectively ruining their ability to support themselves and their families.”

Danny Harris, the director of Transportation Alternatives, said the group is disappointed in Cuomo’s rejection of the bill. “Governor Cuomo, a supposed champion for immigrants and the working poor, has failed to protect 40,000 low-wage, mostly immigrant workers in New Tork,” Harris said in a statement. “In vetoing this legislation, Governor Cuomo has refused to deliver justice for working cyclists who have been targeted and harassed for using e-bikes to do their jobs.”

According to the New York Times, lawmakers in Albany could potentially override the governor’s veto but would require a special session since the Legislature is currently in recess. No special session has been announced.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has recently promised to crack down on e-bikes by launching a law enforcement campaign to issue more summonses and vehicle seizures. But instead of ticketing their place of employment, as required by city law, the NYPD continues to fine individual workers, as Gothamist reported in March.

But this month, the city announced a six-month pilot program that allows big companies, like Amazon, DHL, and UPS, to use electric cargo bikes instead of trucks to deliver packages below 60th Street.  The bikes cannot travel faster than 12 miles per hour and be stored overnight at company-owned facilities.

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