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Electric bikes and scooters to get legal nod of NY City Council

Delivery workers often use electric bikes to do

Delivery workers often use electric bikes to do their runs in New York City. Credit: AP/Seth Wenig

Electric bikes and scooters are set to be legalized under legislation to be passed Thursday by the New York City Council, the office of the speaker said Wednesday.

Under the legislation, motorized bicycles would be allowed to travel as fast as 25 mph and scooters 20 mph, and the city would need to pilot a program in every borough but Manhattan for electric scooter rentals.

In an emailed statement sent by his office, Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan) said the technology was “going to be a major part of our city's transit future.”

"New Yorkers need more sustainable and safe ways to commute and get around during this pandemic — and that is especially true for our essential delivery workers who deserve our gratitude and our support for keeping this city running even through the darkest days of this crisis,” according to the statement, sent by spokesman Jacob Tugendrajch.

The legislation is three bills — Introduction No. 1250-A, 1264-A and 1266-A — all sponsored by Council Member Fernando Cabrera (D-Bronx).

Scooter rental programs — common in jurisdictions around the world — would be available as soon as March 2021, starting with a focus on neighborhoods unserved by bike sharing programs like Citi Bike, which began in 2013.

The additional modes of transportation, supporters say, would help reduce air pollution and traffic congestion and benefit thousands of food delivery workers who rely on e-bikes that are now illegal. Scooter share programs have spread across the United States and around the world.

In those programs, the battery-powered two-wheeled, devices are scattered by the hundreds or even thousands on the street, unlocked with a smartphone app, rented by the minute, and then left for the next user.

The Town of Hempstead had solicited and received two proposals to test an e-scooter rental program under the former town supervisor, Laura Gillen. During the transition, Mike Caputo, a spokesman for her successor, Don Clavin, said last year that the new administration hadn't decided whether it would proceed. He couldn't be immediately reached Wednesday night.

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