Alternative Transportation Wild West Continues as Motorized Scooters Now Legal

Orange colored e-scooter front perspective view parked outdoor on pavement of urban city scene.

New Yorkers can now add electric scooters to the roster of what they may see whizzing by them on the busy streets of NYC. 

The new law, which removed prohibitions in local law against the operation of certain electric scooters, went into effect yesterday. Among Queen’s co-sponsors of the measure were City Council Members Eric Ulrich (R-Belle Harbor, Breezy Point, Broad Channel, Howard Beach, Lindenwood, Neponsit, Ozone Park, Richmond Hill, Rockaway Park, Roxbury, South Ozone Park, West Hamilton Beach, Woodhaven), Karen Koslowitz (D-Rego Park, Forest Hills, Kew Gardens, Richmond Hill), Donovan Richards (D-Arverne, Brookville, Edgemere, Far Rockaway, Laurelton, Rosedale, Springfield Gardens), Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Woodside), Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside, Woodside, Long Island City, Astoria, Dutch Kills), Adrienne Adams (D-Jamaica, Richmond Hill, Rochdale Village, South Ozone Park) and Antonio Reynoso (D- Ridgewood, and parts of Brooklyn). 

There are plenty of rules, however. The scooter itself must have handlebars and a floorboard or a seat that can be stood/sat on. The operator cannot speed past 20 miles per hour or take it for a ride on the sidewalk, according to the New York DMV

The bill was passed in August alongside an earlier bill that enabled people to operate bicycles with electric assist (e-bikes) on some streets and highways in New York State.

But in light of the various Revel accidents- including one that killed CBS reporter Nina Kapur in Greenpoint- many are concerned that the same bad behavior that has gotten people killed on the black and blue bikes will cross over to scooters. It also comes as drivers of autos are continually being vilified as committing “traffic violence” when accidents occur, while the sight of both traditional bicyclists and those utilizing motorized alternative transportation flouting all traffic laws continues to grow.

In July, Revel had tweeted out that they were suspending services in NYC to review and strengthen safety measures and strengthen rider accountability after a number of deaths from Revel accidents made headlines. 

In a New York Times article, during that same time, Revel reported suspending 1,000 of its users for violating its rules like not wearing a helmet and rising in bike lanes and on sidewalks. 

Still, this is a victory for people who rely on alternative modes of transport, particularly during a pandemic. 

“For essential workers especially, they’re going to feel more comfortable now,” Bronx Councilman Fernando Cabrera, told reporters as the main sponsor of the bill. 

Hardcore supporters of the bill are Reynoso and Menchaca who have fought for the immigrant delivery workers, many of whom rely on e-bikes and scooters as a means for transportation. 

In 2019, The New York Police Department said that it had issued over 1,000 summons for riding on electric bikes and scooters. Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered police to stop issuing the citations during the outset of the pandemic as more people started relying on food deliveries, and lawmakers kept pushing for their legalization. 

This bill was passed alongside a bill requiring the Department of Transportation to create sharing programs similar to Citi Bike, which is expected to launch in spring 2021.

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