Stop the unfair ticketing of New Yorkers who own electric bikes

June 15, 2013

In the next few days, New York State could be making an important vote for bicycling. The vote relates to electric bikes ("e-bikes"), which currently are considered "low powered motorcycles" by state law. 

Today, New Yorkers who ride e-bikes are shocked to learn that they may receive unregistered motor vehicle or unlicensed operation violations for riding a bicycle that cannot be ridden faster than 20 mph. Some e-bike riders report receiving hundreds of dollars in violations for riding an e-bike that is classified as a bicycle under federal law. 

Even if you don't own or ride an e-bike yourself, this vote is important for all New Yorkers who bicycle—and all New Yorkers who benefit from more people traveling by bike.  Pedal-assist e-bikes are a type of transportation that should be encouraged and supported in New York. Their use should be made fully legal. E-bike owners ride (instead of drive) for a variety of short, practical trips and many use their bikes for recreation. When this happens, cities and towns benefit in several important ways—reduced road congestion, better air quality, and happier, healthier citizens.

We need your help today. Click here to take action. More details on the bill are below:

Correct Obsolete Definition of Electric Bicycle

S.390A (Dilan)/ A.1618A (Gantt)

ISSUE
New York State’s law regarding the definition of electric bicycles conflicts with the most recent definition in federal law, leading to confusion, negative outcomes, and wrongfully issued violations.

PROBLEM
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.The New York Legislature never enacted a conforming update to state law. Accordingly, these bicycles are considered “low-powered motorcycles” by New York State law.

As the electric bicycle industry grows nationwide, these vehicles are becoming a popular transportation option, exacerbating the conflict between the New York State and federal definition.

There are practical consequences to this legal inconsistency. New Yorkers who ride electric bicycles are shocked to learn that they may receive unregistered motor vehicle or unlicensed operation violations for riding a bicycle that cannot be ridden faster than 20 mph. Some electric bicycle riders report receiving hundreds of dollars in violations for a bike they purchased in a department store.

Finally, because federal law preempts state law, this conflict raises significant legal questions about the validity of the Dept. of Motor Vehicle’s registration requirements and the subsequent enforcement of those violations.

SOLUTION
This bill solves the problem by aligning New York State law with the federal law, and clarifying that electric bicycles, which have a top speed of 20 mph, are not motor vehicles. Since electric bicycles travel at about the same speed as bicycles, and weigh about the same as ordinary bicycles, it is appropriate to align New York State’s definition with the federal government’s definition.

 

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