By Gwendolyn Craig
Electric bikes and scooters are now legal in New York, with some caveats.
Commonly called e-bikes and e-scooters, they were legalized in the 2021 executive budget.
They remain banned on state lands including the Adirondack Forest Preserve, according to a spokesperson for the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
The exception will be the Adirondack Rail Trail, the spokesperson added. The Adirondack Park Agency officially approved that trail in May, and the hope is it will be completed in 2023. The state will only allow pedal-assist bikes on the rail trail.
Outside forest preserve, they may only be driven on roads posted 30 miles per hour or less, and cannot be driven on sidewalks. That means e-bike and e-scooter drivers will have limited spots to go in the Adirondacks.
The push for e-bikes and scooters has been an uphill one. At the end of last year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo had vetoed a bill legalizing them, citing missing safety measures. The bill has since been updated and includes things like a helmet requirement and prohibition on riders younger than 16.
The state Senate and Assembly passed the 2021 state budget, which Cuomo signed in April.
According to the budget text, there are three classes of e-bikes. All must stop providing a boost to riders once the bicycle reaches a speed of 20 mph. Here is the breakdown:
- Class 1: “A bicycle with electric assist having an electric motor that provides assistance only when the person operating such bicycle is pedaling;”
- Class 2: “A bicycle with electric assist having an electric motor that may be used exclusively to propel such bicycle;”
- Class 3: “Solely within a city having a population of one million or more, a bicycle with electric assist having an electric motor that may be used exclusively to propel such bicycle.”
E-scooters must also have a maximum speed of 20 mph.
There is also a provision in the legislation that allows any local government body to pass its own law further regulating the use of e-bikes and e-scooters. They could lower the maximum speed, require more protective equipment and could prohibit their use in certain areas.
To learn more, go to the state Department of Motor Vehicles website.