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NYC Council set to legalize electric bikes and scooters

The City Council is set to approve legislation Thursday that will finally legalize electric bikes and scooters in New York City.

The three bills will legalize bicycles with electric motors that can travel up to 25 mph and scooters that can travel up to 20 mph across the Big Apple — and would require the Department of Transportation to set up a Citi Bike-style e-scooter share pilot program outside of Manhattan.

“With the legalization of e-bikes that travel only up to 25 mph, and restrictions on impoundment to those e-bikes that don’t meet this standard, our delivery workers, who provided an essential service during the coronavirus pandemic, will feel safer in their daily work, supporting their families,” said Councilman Fernando Cabrera (D-The Bronx), the main sponsor of the legislation.

The package is backed by Speaker Corey Johnson and should easily pass.

“New Yorkers need more sustainable and safe ways to commute and get around during this pandemic — and that is especially true for our essential delivery workers who deserve our gratitude and our support for keeping this city running even through the darkest days of this crisis. Ebikes and scooters are going to be a major part of our city’s transit future,” added Johnson (D-Manhattan).

The scooter-share pilot is supposed to be up and running by March 2021, but will only be allowed in the outerboroughs due to separate state law sparing Manhattan.

Neighborhoods that aren’t served by existing bike-share programs — like Citi Bike — will be given priority, the legislation adds.

City lawmakers are moving after their counterparts in Albany approved legislation as part of the state budget that nixed the state’s prohibition on the devices, ending a decade-long fight over scooters and electric bikes at the state Capitol.

Political pressure to break the logjam grew as Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered a series of crackdowns on electric bicycles that resulted in hundreds being seized by the police.

Critics of the policy blasted the confiscations, arguing they singled out the Big Apple’s hard-working and largely immigrant delivery workforce, who need the speedy bikes to fulfill orders placed on popular food order apps like Seamless and Caviar.

They said that each impound cost the bike’s deliveryman thousands of dollars, thanks to the $500 fine and two-to-three days of wages lost waiting to get the bike back from the impound.

The city had already stopped cracking down on e-bikes during the pandemic.

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