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New York legalizes e-bikes and e-scooters despite concerns

New York State has finally and unambiguously legalized electric bikes and scooters, despite claims from around the country of an outsized hazard these little vehicles represent.

New York City has cautiously experimented with allowing them, but most of the rest of the state has not yet seen them “in the wild.” Many more e-bikes and e-scooters are likely to appear in the immediate future around the state.

What the new law says and does

The bill legalizes e-scooters and 3 categories of e-bikes:

  • Scooters with handlebars weighing less than 100 pounds and powered by people and/or motors.
  • Bikes that help you pedal until 20 mph, and then you’re on your own.
  • Bikes where pedaling is optional but the option isn’t available above 20 mph.
  • Bikes where pedaling is optional but the option isn’t available above 25 mph (only in cities of a population of 1 million people or more, so only NYC).

At nearly 450 lines, the law spells out a wide variety of other ground rules for the state’s new e-scooter era, including leaving the scene of an accident, tethering yourself to a scooter, how old you need to be, and which roads, shoulders and sidewalks you can use.

Cautionary notes for Albany

The reports a variety of upbeat assessments of a future with the new breed of vehicles, and notes that the Neighborhood Engagement Unit of the Albany Police Department have already used 3 e-bikes since last year.

But other states have allowed these devices for some time, with New York State among the last major hold-outs.

There are plenty of less upbeat lessons to learn from the experiences elsewhere. Media reports of vandalism, outlandish misuse, open conflict in the streets, arrests and, of course, injuries and lawsuits are easy to call up on the internet.