Electric Bikes and Scooters Face Increasing Legal Hurdles

can be reached at nwakelin@gmail.com
can be reached at nwakelin@gmail.com
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Electric bikes and scooters are facing increasing legal hurdles across the country. As reported on Ride, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo just vetoed a bill that would have made them legal in the state. This comes despite the bill passing with wide support in the state Senate last summer.

  • Electric bikes and scooters are facing increased regulation.
  • Concerns include the safety of riders and pedestrians.
  • The laws vary from one city to the next making it confusing for riders.

While many residents take issue with the clutter e-bikes and scooters can create on city sidewalks, Cuomo has a problem with their basic safety. The proposed bill would have given local jurisdictions the ability to regulate and ban vehicles but made no requirement for helmets or other safety measures.

Some question whether e-bikes should be treated like mopeds. (Photo: Getty Images)

Slow it down

Also on the list of Cuomo’s objections was how the throttle works on e-bikes. A rider can increase speed without needing to pedal, which Cuomo thinks is too close to a moped. Since those are vehicles that require license plates and riders with a valid driver’s license, the same regulations could reasonably be applied to e-bikes.

Those who use e-bikes and scooters for fun might think this is nothing more than a minor inconvenience. However, making these vehicles illegal has serious consequences for those who use them in their jobs. Food delivery workers in particular suffer by not being able to hop on an e-bike to deliver orders.

According to Fast Company, that doesn’t mean those delivery workers are following the law. Some choose to deliver on e-bikes anyway. They are legal to own in New York. The problem is that the state considers them vehicles yet has no way for a person to register them as such. Bucking the law and using an e-bike or scooter anyway can result in fines and confiscation.

This isn’t just a problem in New York City or even New York State. E-bikes and scooters are facing challenges across the country as their popularity rises. Divvy was set to roll out e-bikes this fall in Chicago, but was forced to delay that rollout until March. According to the Chicago Tribune, bureaucratic problems involving funding and the creation of new bike lanes were the issue.

In other areas, scooters are under fire with bans in multiple cities where they were once legal. Due to the quick rise in the popularity of electric scooters, there were no regulations in place when they first appeared. The lack of regulations is what government officials are trying to fix.

Safety is a major concern, including the need for helmets. (Photo: Getty Images)

Safety first

The biggest concern for many state and local legislatures is safety. According to the Huffington Post, complaints include a lack of adequate instructions for new riders and the omission of safety equipment like helmets. In addition, riders are sometimes careless, knocking over pedestrians and leaving the scooters scattered where people could trip over them and fall. A Consumer Reports study links electric scooters to eight deaths.

According to the LA Times, a California law that bans motorized vehicles from sidewalks is being used to target e-scooter rides. Bird, Lime, and other scooter companies have taken to adding stickers to their scooters warning riders to stay off sidewalks.

Despite those warnings, the Los Angeles Police Department wrote 800 tickets to electric vehicle riders and issued more than 900 violations from January to mid-July of 2018. Riding scooters on the sidewalks of Los Angeles is still the norm throughout the city.

Those scooters are legal on the streets if the posted speed limit is 25 mph or lower and the rider sticks close to the right-hand curb. They’re also allowed in bike lanes, but are never allowed to travel in the same lanes as cars.

The variety of laws from one city to the next, even within the same state makes it a challenge for those who use these vehicles. Some cities, like Santa Monica, California, allow e-scooters only in select areas. The LA Times reports people who don’t know about the geofencing used to enforce those restrictions are unpleasantly surprised when the motors suddenly cut out.


E-bikes and electric scooters are a popular solution for travel within cities. They’re affordable to rent, easy to use, and convenient. While safety concerns are valid, the myriad number of laws across the country make it difficult for companies to do business and for consumers to enjoy these new mobility options.

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can be reached at nwakelin@gmail.com
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