Governor vetoes bill to legalize e-bikes, e-scooters
by Benjamin Fang
Dec 31, 2019 | 6690 views | 0 0 comments | 427 427 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Just days before the new year, Governor Andrew Cuomo vetoed state legislation that would have legalized electric bikes and scooters in New York.

Passed overwhelmingly by both chambers in the legislature over the summer, the bill would have brought relief for immigrant delivery workers, many of whom use throttle e-bikes but have been subject to police crackdowns.

In his veto message, Cuomo wrote that the executive proposal contained a number of safety measures to go along with legalization, including a helmet requirement, mandatory front and rear lights, a lower speed limit and prohibition against driving while impared by drugs or alcohol.

“The legislature’s proposal inexplicably omitted several of the safety measures included in the budget proposal,” he wrote. “Failure to include these basic measures renders this legislation fatally flawed.”

The governor cited a study in the “American Journal of Otolaryngology” that concluded that head injuries have tripled in the last decade from the use of e-scooters. Two-thirds of the victims were not wearing helmets.

“Helmets are a common-sense requirement that should be imposed on operators of these vehicles to protect public safety,” he wrote.

As for e-bikes, Cuomo said the throttle motor riders use to increase speed render them “indistinguishable from mopeds,” which are already regulated.

“There is no need for us to choose between legalizing e-bikes and safety,” the governor tweeted on December 26, “and I will propose a bill that does both on January 8.”

State Senator Jessica Ramos, who sponsored the bill, replied on Twitter that the bill wasn’t a choice between either. She wrote that she would be happy to work with the governor, but “don’t be disingenuous.”

“Our state has failed to help tens of thousands of New Yorkers who desperately need relief from the punitive measures taken against them everyday for merely doing their jobs,” she 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.”

Immigrant delivery workers who have spoken out about the NYPD crackdown have said fines of $500 amount to losing a week’s worth of work. Having their e-bikes confiscated also hurts their ability to work.

Ramos added in her statement that vetoing the bill means failing to reduce vehicular congestion, provide an environmentally-friendly alternative and create new means of transportation.

“In 2020, we will pass this bill and every year after until we finally get the justice these delivery workers deserve,” she said.

Assemblywoman Nily Rozic, the other sponsor for the legislation, said the bill was championed by transit, immigrant and environmental advocates who seek “long overdue clarity in the law.”

“Despite this missed opportunity, my goal always was and will continue to be a path forward, bike or otherwise” she said, “for our delivery workers, environment and transit-starved communities.”
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