Electric bikes and scooters are surging in popularity around the country, but they are illegal in New York City, and using one could result in a $500 fine.
Now some elected officials want to change that, introducing legislation to legalize them.
“We need to respond to the consumers," said City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez of Manhattan. "Consumers are already using electrical scooters and electrical bikes."
Supporters say legalizing e-bikes and scooters would benefit delivery workers, typically immigrants, who rely on them. They also call e-bikes and e-scooters enivromentally friendly alternatives to cars, and say they would be especially useful in easing the pain of the L train shutdown next spring.
"Our MTA is crumbling, congestion is at an all-time high, and people are relying on bikes and looking for other ways to get around," said City Councilman Rafael Espinal of Manhattan.
The bills would allow using e-Bikes at speeds of up to 20 mph and e-scooters at up to 15 mph.
Critics, including Mayor Bill de Blasio, say the vehicles are dangerous. The mayor had even ordered a crackdown of e-bikes last year, but maintains he's still committed to reviewing the bills or finding a safer alternative.
"The kinds of e-bikes that a lot of the delivery folks have used go very fast and, unfortunately, have often been abused. Going the wrong way on streets. Driving recklessly. And there's a lot of problems related to that. It's also just not legal. It's not legal to use in New York City," de Blasio said. "The e-scooters are newer, and again, I'm certaintly interested in anything getting people around better, but there's also safety issues there."
The legislation also would establish a scooter sharing pilot program. E-bike- and scooter-sharing services like Bird and Lime already operate in dozens of other cities across the country.
"I agree it could be kind of dangerous, but I think they're super fun," said one New Yorker. "I've used them before up in Providence, I think they may be legal there. They're super fast, super fun. I think they'll be OK."