New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has vetoed a state bill that would have legalized electric bikes and scooters the New York Post reported on Thursday. The bill passed with overwhelming support from legislators this summer, The move is a blow to delivery workers in NYC, who have been targeted by police for seizures and $500 fines.
The bill passed in June with a vote of 56-6 in the state Senate and 137-4 in the state Assembly. Per the Post, Cuomo cited a lack of “safety measures” such as lack of a mandatory helmet requirement, stricter speed limits, and making driving them while inebriated a crime.
Electric bikes that have pedal-controlled power systems are de facto legal in NYC, though ones that can speed up themselves are not, according to Streetsblog. Cuomo argued that electric bikes are similar to mopeds, which already have their own requirements: “Specifically with respect to e-bikes, the throttle motor that allows a rider to increase speed without pedaling renders e-bikes indistinguishable from mopeds, which are already regulated and require license plates and drivers licenses.”
Even if the bill was passed, NYC would have to pass its own ordinances legalizing e-bikes and e-scooters; the bikes would still be barred from the Hudson River Greenway and the scooters from all of Manhattan. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, who mulled imposing mandatory helmets and licensing for cyclists earlier this year, has long called e-bikes dangerous despite statistics strongly suggesting the exact opposite.
Legislators said they were willing to work out a deal with the governor but that he declined due to a chilly relationship with state Senator Jessica Ramos (D-Queens), a bill sponsor, according to the Post. They plan to resubmit the bill with changes that might win Cuomo’s support.
The New York Police Department has been cracking down on e-bikes, which can result in riders confiscating their bikes and being served with $500 fines. The Legal Aid Society filed a lawsuit in state Supreme Court earlier this year, saying that enforcement primarily targets low-wage delivery workers who rely on the bicycles and that the NYPD ignored directives to focus on ticketing their employers.
“Governor Cuomo, a supposed champion for immigrants and the working poor, has failed to protect 40,000 low-wage, mostly immigrant workers in New York,” Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Danny Harris told Streetsblog. “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.”
“Our state has failed to help tens of thousands of New Yorkers who desperately need relief from the punitive measures taken against them every day for merely doing their jobs,” Ramos told the blog 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.”