Help Win the Use of e-Bikes

Filed Under: Advocacy & Policy, Bike Laws, eBike, Tourism
Post By: justinsmith
Posted On: November 3, 2015

February 2017 Update:

As those following this campaign closely for the past two years we got within a “wheel” length of passing a bill last year.   We are working hard to address the remaining concerns raised by the New York Police Department and are very confident we can get something passed THIS SESSION. Thousands of you sent messages in 2015-16 following the protocol below – and continue to send in messages in 2017!  Keep up the pressure.  Despite their legal status in New York, electric bikes, which represent green and human scale transportation, are everywhere, upstate and down, and growing in numbers – both in the Empire State, around the United States and across the planet.   It is not a question of IF electric bikes will become legal in New York State – just when.    Thank you for your help and support!

Did you know that buying an electric bicycle (e-bike) in New York State is legal, but riding it is illegal? We think this is absurd and we need your help to fix this.

The New York Bicycling Coalition (NYBC), PeopleForBikes, and the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association have teamed up to increase access for people who would like to ride an electric bike. We’re working to fix a law that prevents New Yorkers from purchasing and using electric bicycles and negatively affects the entire bicycle industry.

Will you sign onto a letter to Governor Cuomo to show support for this effort? We’re counting on individuals like you as well as businesses and other organizations to sign on to the letter to help make our effort successful.

Tell Governor Cuomo it’s time for New York State to have a logical e-Bike law – it shouldn’t be illegal for people to ride them on public roadways.

e-Bikes Help Reduce Barriers

Many electric bicycles behave and look almost exactly like a regular bicycle, but are easier to pedal with assistance from an electric motor that is activated when pedaling. Electric bicycles benefit people who may be discouraged from riding a traditional bicycle due to physical fitness issues, age, disability, the need to transport heavy items and people (the kiddos are growing up fast!), and/or the need to cover more distance. e-bikes also enable people who already ride a bike to do so more often and make long trips by bike more manageable and attractive as an option instead of a car.

Our Effort

Earlier in 2015, we moved an electric bicycle bill in the state legislature further than it has ever gone before, with broad support from both parties, but it fell short of passing (learn more). This year, we are asking Governor Cuomo to include our proposal in his 2016/2017 Executive Budget set to be release in January. With your support, we’re confident that we’ll cross the finish line with a broad support in the next assembly in 2016.

Please check out this Fact Sheet on e-Bikes in New York State and feel free to to share it.

Further Details

In 2002, federal law was amended to distinguish bicycles with low-power electric motors capable of reaching speeds of 20 mph or less, from motorcycles, mopeds and motor vehicles (this is considered the “Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) standard”). Some states, mostly those with electric bike legislation enacted after the 2002 federal CPSC standard, regulate low-speed electric bicycles as bicycles and do not require special registration or licensing, removing significant barriers to e-bike use. In most other states where older moped laws are applied, e-bikes are considered a motor vehicle with required vehicle plates and operator licenses.

The New York State Legislature never changed state law to conform to the CPSC standard to distinguish bicycles with low-power electric motors capable from motorcycles, mopeds, and motor vehicles. Accordingly, these bicycles are considered “motor-assisted bicycles” by New York State law, and the law does not accurately reflect the state of e-bike technology or conform to existing federal law. Though it is completely legal to sell electric bicycles in the state under the federal law (federal law governs the manufacturing and sale of e-bikes), it is illegal to operate them on public roadways (the state governs the use of e-bikes). The ambiguous language in existing state law describing electric bikes creates confusion for manufacturers and consumers in this fast-growing market.

The solution to New York’s e-bike regulatory problem on streets, roads, and multi-use paved trails is to fix its problematic state vehicle code.

E-bikes behave almost exactly like a regular bicycle, but are easier to pedal with assistance from an electric motor that is activated when pedaling. E-bikes are designed to be as safe as bicycles, at bike-like speeds and conditions. Research shows that the average speed of e-bike users on roadways is 1.8 mph faster than that of regular bicycle users (8.3 mph and 6.5 mph respectively). Since e-bikes have grown in popularity there have not been any significant increase in bike collisions, trail user conflicts, safety complaints or litigation.

Electric bicycles do not compromise consumer safety and their use benefits new bicyclists who may be discouraged from riding a traditional bicycle due to physical fitness issues, age, disability and/or convenience. They allow current bicyclists to bike more often and travel farther distances, and expand the range of trips where an e-bike can be used instead of a car.

In the United States, the bike industry estimates more than 200,000 e-bikes may be sold in 2015 and this number is set to increase by 10% annually.

From a tourism and recreation standpoint, e-bike adoption would bring increased business to local bicycle shops and bicycle and accessory manufacturers from both existing bike riders and those who are drawn to e-bikes and would have a positive impact on New York’s tourism industry. Many hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts cater to tourists seeking outdoor experiences who would enjoy using electric bicycles during their stay, especially on the hilly upstate terrain. Tour operators in cities and towns throughout the state will also see increases in business. Bike tours of cities such as Buffalo and Rochester have become immensely popular in recent years and e-bikes would enhance the tourists’ experiences.

From a transportation standpoint, e-bikes are especially important for senior citizens, parents with children, people with disabilities, and people whose trips involve steep hills or whose work commutes are within the 5-20 mile range and who traditionally drive. E-bikes are increasingly recognized as a way to get more people out of their cars and onto a bicycle as they appeal to people who want to bike but would otherwise not do it because of physical limitations and other personal barriers. Senior citizens can use electric bikes for freedom of transportation and mobility. New bicyclists, who may be discouraged from riding a traditional bike due to limited physical fitness, age or disability, have a new and convenient mode of transportation.

E-bikes also benefit the environment and local economies. Electric bikes use green battery technology and have the potential to become an important addition to New York’s growing energy-efficient transportation system. Encouraging bicycle ridership by any means benefits the environment and improves the state’s air quality, traffic congestion and quality of life.

Fixing the e-bike law is critical for people who are ready to try bicycling thanks to the potential of electric bikes. Legislation to clarify existing law will open thousands of bicycle paths to riders, making it easier for consumers to understand where they can legally ride electric bicycles, and for retailers to sell electric bicycles to new and existing riders. In fact legislation doing exactly this passed the Senate last year and nearly passed the Assembly, moving the furthest it has ever moved (A.233/S.997). Clarifying the definition of and regulations around low-speed electric bicycles is critical to the expansion of their use by New Yorkers, and therefore important to the state’s goals of enabling more bicycling for the health, safety, and prosperity of all New Yorkers.

Legalizing e-bike use in New York is a benefit to both riders and to the state. Encouraging bicycle use is a safe way to help the environment by limiting congestion, support healthy living, and promote New York’s robust and diverse tourism industry, which in turn helps local economies. If New York is to move forward as a bicycle-friendly state, public policy makers must reclassify e-bikes for what they are and reap the benefits of increased ridership.