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Ebikes and e-scooters legalized in New York, delivery drivers first to benefit

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It’s been a rocky road, but New York State has finally taken steps to legalize the use of e-scooters and ebikes.

In the state’s annual budget agreement, lawmakers finally agreed upon and clarified terminology surrounding the mobility tech. In short, a variety of e-scooters and ebikes can now be used on public highways with a posted speed limit of 30 mph (around 48 km/h) or less.

The budget agreement details three classes of ebike: pedal-assist bikes limited to 20 mph (32 km/h), throttle-powered bikes limited to 20 mph (32 km/h), and throttled-powered bikes limited to 25 mph (40 km/h) in cities of at least one million people, Engadget reports.

In the interest of clarity, pedal-assist e-bikes were already legal in New York, throttle-controlled bikes were not.

[Read: UK takes next step toward world of e-scooters, self-driving cars, and autonomous drones]

Similar legislation was nearly passed last year, however, state governor Andrew Cuomo vetoed the bill over safety concerns. As per the latest agreement, ebike and e-cooter riders under 18 years of age will now have to wear a helmet. Those that don’t wear a helmet, could face a fine of up to $50.

For those that require protective headgear, the state agreement regularly mentions the National Helmet Distribution Program which can supply free helmets for children from low-income families.

Good timing for some

It’s undeniably good timing for some New Yorkers. Earlier this month, the New York Police Department temporarily embargoed the ban on ebikes and e-scooters to support delivery workers during the coronavirus outbreak. But with this latest news, delivery companies will be free to use ebikes, legally now.

The news will also be music to the ears of e-scooter hire companies like Bird and Lime, as it effectively clears the path for them to start operating — with much more legal clarity — in the state. The ride-share companies will still need permission from local authorities, but that’s always been the case.

That said, e-scooter ride-sharing companies are having a bit of a hard time at the moment, and have been hit by the pandemic. So they’re unlikely to rush at the opportunity.

Back in March, e-scooter companies Lime and Bird both began removing their services from a number of European and US cities. The move came in response to a drop in user figures as nations around the globe employ self-isolation and quarantine measures.

Some have been concerned of the health implications of using shared e-scooters. According to an article in The New England Journal of Medicine, coronavirus can live on steel and plastic surfaces for up to 72 hours. E-scooter companies — including Bird and Lime — have said they are cleaning their hardware more frequently to address this concern.

Published April 6, 2020 — 07:56 UTC