UPDATED, Jan. 8, 2020: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo pledged in his State of State address Wednesday to introduce new legislation to legalize electric bikes and scooters statewide.
As part of his agenda for the 2020 state legislative session, marked by a speech in Albany, NY, Cuomo called for a bill that will deliver "justice for e-bike workers," while ensuring "sustainable vehicle alternatives such as e-scooters keep riders, pedestrians, and drivers safe."
More details on the legislation are expected to emerge in the coming days.
- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed a bill to legalize electric bikes and scooters statewide, despite overwhelming support from the state legislature.
- In his veto message, Cuomo said the proposed bill omitted safety measures that were originally outlined in his 2019 executive budget. "Failure to include these basic measures renders this legislation fatally flawed," he said.
- Cuomo tweeted he will propose a new bill next week that will re-address safety legislation.
There is no need for us to choose between legalizing e-bikes and safety, and I will propose a bill that does both on January 8.— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) December 27, 2019
Cuomo's veto was a frustrating development in the fight for scooter and e-bike legislation for a number of stakeholders, including micromobility operators, delivery workers and climate activists. However that fight is not over, and some operators, such as Lime, are optimistic the New York State Legislature can craft a bill to quickly place scooters and e-bikes on the road in the safest manner possible.
"Governor Cuomo has been a strong advocate for innovative and sustainable mobility options, and in the upcoming session, he should make New York a national leader for alternative transportation," said Phil Jones, senior government relations director at Lime, in an email statement to Smart Cities Dive. "Safety is our top priority and we look forward to discussing with state leaders how to ensure the safest possible environment for micromobility to thrive."
The veto decision was heavily influenced by a lack of helmet laws in the proposed bill. Cuomo's veto message stated, "Helmets are a common-sense requirement that should be imposed on operators of these vehicles to protect public safety." A recent report from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) suggested mandatory helmet laws could be effective in actually increasing helmet use, at least for cyclists. Although, the study suggested there is not yet enough data around scooters to make similar claims.
Efforts to enforce helmet laws have sparked criticism from cycling advocates who see the moves as "victim blaming" and suggest helmet use should be voluntary. Critics specifically highlighted Cuomo's mention of a 16-year-old scooter rider who was fatally struck by a tow truck in Elizabeth, NJ in November 2019, noting a helmet would have done little to protect him from suffering fatal injuries.
Delivery workers, many of whom rely on e-bikes to make deliveries across New York City's major boroughs, will also suffer from e-bikes remaining illegal statewide. The New York Times reported that the New York Police Department (NYPD) had issued more than 1,100 summons for the illegal operation of e-bikes and e-scooters in 2019. Despite sustained illegality, it is unlikely that e-bike use will decrease as workers depend on quick transportation in order to earn tips and make a living.
In his veto message, Cuomo said electric bikes and scooters "carry the potential to be a useful tool in changing the way we travel and reducing greenhouse gas emissions." In order to reap these benefits — particularly lowered emissions in the wake of lofty 2030 targets — it will be pertinent for the state legislature to pass new legislation quickly.