MANHATTAN, N.Y. — A potential candidate for mayor of New York recognizes the danger that pedestrians and bike riders face getting around the City. The putative candidate said that it is time for New York to break its dependence on motor vehicles to transport people around New York City’s five boroughs. Electric bikes and now electric scooters each present their own series of unique challenges to NYC regulators to aptly define the type of machine and the limitations on its use, if any. The news magazine, the New York City Lens examined some of the issues that people need to consider when making decisions about authorizing use of electric transportation in New York City.
Electric bikes are a convenient option for people trying to navigate New York City. State law in New York recognizes three classes of electric bikes, all of which must be registered with the State’s Department of Motor Vehicles. Class 1 electric bicycles start with physical pedaling by the driver at top out at 20 miles per hour. Class 2 electric bicycles have an electric start but still has pedals. This configuration is similar to the old-fashioned mopeds but are often called “throttle bikes” and go around 20 miles per hour. A Class 3 electric bike can travel as fast as 28 miles per hour. Class 3 bikes go too fast for crowded New York City streets. Only Class 1 electric bikes are the only electric bikes that may be driven lawfully in New York.
While taking a Class 1 bike for a ride in New York requires knowledge of how to ride a bike, riding an e-scooter is easier. The rider merely stands upon the scooter and blasts off. E-scooters may be ridden by anyone in any kind of dress. E-scooters do not travel as fast as e-bikes and are, therefore, a potentially safer alternative to electric bikes. One enormous hurdle e-scooter companies must negotiate before setting up shop in New York City still remains: e-scooters are illegal in NYC and the state. As time progresses, legislators may wish to ease the rules to facilitate pedestrian transportation.
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