New York City has been a holdout in the electric scooter craze, but after a city council hearing Wednesday, that could finally change.
The city’s Committee on Transportation introduced four bills concerning e-scooters and electric bicycles. Companies like Bird and Lime that rent out the motorized scooters haven’t been allowed to operate in the city’s five boroughs, despite a growing international presence.
The four bills include a pilot program for shared e-scooters and legalizing e-scooters that can only go up to 15 mph. A similar bill would allow for the use of e-bikes with a max speed of 20 mph, while another creates a conversion program for throttle e-bikes to become pedal-assist e-bicycles.
Previously, a 2004 New York state law banned any motorized scooters. Last year, NYC mayor Bill de Blasio lightened up the rules with an exception for electric-assist bicycles that still require pedaling to move. This was seen as an overdue win for the courier and delivery-worker community that relies on the bicycle’s extra boost. The mayor isn’t the biggest fan of motorized vehicles zooming around the city.
Now the fight moves onto e-scooters.
Council member Ydanis Rodriguez has been vocal about legalizing electric transit options, along with council members Rafael Espinal and Fernando Cabrera. The three members held a rally before the Wednesday meeting, where the four bills were introduced.
The meeting went on for more than five hours weighing what seemed like every aspect of bringing in new motorized vehicles from charging infrastructure, to protected bike lanes, to the impact on congestion and the environment.
A spokesperson for council member Rodriguez said this is the first meaningful step to allow the battery-powered devices on city streets.
Now that the council and community members were able to discuss the bills, the council will take more public comment and input from agencies and others involved in e-scooter legalization. It looks somewhat optimistic that e-scooters could be allowed in NYC — eventually, and likely with many caveats.
E-scooter company Lime is obviously eager to enter the new market and has a Manhattan event with its next generation e-scooter planned for later this week, noting it as a chance for “New Yorkers to experience the possibilities that Lime offers to everyone.” The Facebook invite says city leaders will attend.
Back in November, the package of e-vehicle bills were technically first introduced, but were held up until the state gave the go-ahead. Now that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has given the OK for cities to figure out for themselves what to do about e-scooters, NYC is doing just that. But until the state budget is passed later this year, NYC might have to wait before the electric vehicles start zooming around.