Until recently, electric bicycles and electric kick scooters in most forms have been illegal in New York City. But that is set to change Wednesday when a new bill finally codifies electric bicycles and scooters, legalizing them across the state and in NYC.

Electric bicycles legalized across NY

The new bill, sponsored by state Sen. Jessica Ramos and Assembly Member Nily Rozic, would legalize three classes of electric bicycles.

The first class includes pedal assist electric bicycles with a top speed of 20 mph (32 km/h).

The second class includes throttle controlled electric bicycles with a top speed of 20 mph (32 km/h).

The third class includes throttle controlled electric bicycles with a top speed of 25 mph (40 km/h). That last class has been popular with deliverymen and couriers in NYC, but such bicycles and their riders have been the target of police crackdowns in the past year.

The first two classes would be legal across New York State, while the third class of high speed electric bicycles would be legal only in New York City.

New York emissions

Electric scooters get the legal treatment too

In addition to e-bikes, electric scooters will also be legalized. Such electric scooters would be limited to a top speed of 20 mph (32 km/h). Many electric scooters that can travel faster, such as the popular WideWheel electric scooter, may qualify when using speed limiting functions.

Other more serious 40 mph (64 km/h) electric scooters likely won’t make the cut.

Electric scooter sharing companies may also be allowed to begin operations in New York, assuming they follow future regulations provided by local municipalities.

However, you shouldn’t expect to see any Bird or Lime scooters in Manhattan. Very specific language in the bill is used to ensure that such scooter operations won’t take hold on the island, which was likely a concession to certain state senators who feared a calamity with thousands of scooters mixing with busy sidewalks and roads of Manhattan.

Lime Scooter locations worldwide

Privately-owned electric scooters will still be allowed in Manhattan though. And considering that there are many options for consumer electric scooters, riders aren’t likely to be stuck without scooter choices.

The bill is expected to pass its final vote on Wednesday before heading to the Governor to be signed into law.

Electrek’s Take

I’m very excited to finally see electric bicycles legalized in New York. E-bikes that travel up to 25 mph (40 km/h) are incredible commuting tools that get people out of cars, reduce traffic and help make cities more sustainable. 

Having ridden electric bicycles for nearly a decade, I can’t overemphasize their convenience as commuter vehicles. I never want to go back to a car or bus, and I even commute on my electric bicycles and scooters year-round.

I’m also excited to hear that electric kick scooters will finally be legalized in New York City, though they have been de facto legal for a while. Despite technically being outlawed, instances of electric scooter riders being fined are nearly non-existent.

I can definitely understand why the lawmakers chose to leave Manhattan out of the scooter sharing negotiations though. As much as I love riding Lime and Bird scooters when traveling in new cities, I can see them being a problem in such a crowded pedestrian city. But maybe Manhattan can find a way to make it work. Improving the bicycle lane infrastructure would be a great start.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!


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