City Councilmember Rafael Espinal (D-Bushwich, Cypress Hills, East New York) this week blasted Gov. Andrew Cuomo for vetoing legislation legalizing electric bikes and electric scooters on the grounds part of the measure would have to include safety measures.
Sate Sen. Jessica Ramos carried the legislation in her chamber and Assemblymembers Nily Rozic carried the measure in the lower chamber. Both lawmakers are from immigrant neighborhoods of Queens and the measure passed overwhelmingly.
“Legalizing e-bikes is the next step in New York City living up to its duty as a sanctuary city for immigrants, and as a fair city for its workers. While we work hard to improve our public transit system across the City, we also need to support alternative modes of transportation to assist those that live in transit deserts, which includes e-scooters,” wrote Espinal in an open letter.
Espinal and others fear the mandate would create a hardship for delivery workers, many of whom are immigrants. Espinal suggests it is a policy that goes against New York’s policy of tolerance, especially during a period of tough federal legislative mandates against the immigrant population. It is a sentiment supported by transportation and immigrant rights groups.
But Cuomo suggested that the legislation in its current form does not tackle the issue of safety outlined in his 2019 Executive budget.
After the veto, Cuomo issued a statement saying, “ As part of the 2019 Executive budget, I included legislation that would legalize e-bikes and e-scooters if authorized by a locality. The proposal contained a number of safety measures, including a lower speed limit, restrictions on where such e-bikes and e-scooters could be operated, a prohibition against operating while impaired by drugs or alcohol, a helmet requirement, mandatory front and rear lights, and a mandatory bell on each mode of conveyance.”
The governor also cited the death of an e-scooter driver in New Jersey to support his claim.
According to Bed-Stuy Patch, New York City has banned electric rides since 2017 and riders can face $500 fines and e-scooter seizures. The NYPD has seized more than 930 e-bikes in 2019, Mayor Bill de Blasio said in October.
In 2020, businesses that use e-bikes or pay workers to use them could face $200 fines, the Mayor said.
But Espinal called the veto “an ultimate setback for the tireless advocacy of so many in New York City and across New York State. This move directly combats the effort to supplement our City’s faltering public transportation system and the fight for the rights of immigrant workers.”
He continued, “Regardless of what ends up happening in Albany, I am fully committed to passing the related legislation we hold in City Council.”