New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced new rules that will clarify that pedal assist e-bikes will be permitted on NYC Streets.
These bikes, known as Class 1 pedal assist e-bikes, require the rider to pedal in order to activate a small, silent motor. The motor cuts out at a speed of 20 miles per hour. Throttle e-bikes — those that operate without the assistance of pedaling and with capacity to exceed speeds of 20 miles per hour — will continue to be illegal under state and local laws.
In creating this framework, New York City joins cities in the U.S. and around the world in embracing pedal assist e-bikes as a means of getting more people to ride bicycles, helping to reduce pollution and traffic congestion and aiding commerce.
“As cycling continues to grow in popularity for commuting, deliveries and tourism, we are seeing the demand for pedal-assist bicycles that can help cyclists travel longer distances and more easily climb steep hills,” said the mayor in a press statement. “With new and clear guidelines, cyclists, delivery workers and businesses alike will now understand exactly what devices are allowed.”
Rules regarding use of e-bikes have long occupied a grey area. Under current rules, e-bikes are legal to sell and to buy, but not to ride on NYC streets. And yet, e-bikes are growing in popularity, and their adoption is being encouraged elsewhere by municipalities and by some bike share system operators, who are putting pedal-assist bikes to their fleets.
Many see value in adding options to a multi-modal transportation range, notably as cities continue to grow. London’s equivalent of the DOT recently partnered with the bicycle trade association, bike shops and several brands in a campaign to support awareness and use of e-bikes. Davis, Sacramento and West Sacramento, CA, are launching the largest pedal-assist bike share system in the U.S.
Mayor de Blasio announced a crackdown on e-bikes last fall that took effect in January. Critics charged that the move unfairly targeted low-wage, mostly immigrant delivery workers, who bear the cost of having their bikes confiscated. Advocates have been working to reduce fines and make it easier for delivery workers to obtain compliant bikes. NYC Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told Streetsblog this week: “We are going to be working closely, as we already do, with delivery groups around the city, immigrant groups, to help educate and work with them to encourage them to avail themselves now.”
The next steps by the NYC DOT are to launch a 30-day public comment period followed by a public hearing.
At the state level, legislation that would clearly define types of e-bikes and where they can be ridden has been bogged down in the New York State Assembly. You can directly contact your state assembly members to support bills A07791B and S06029B by following this link.
Photo: Trek Bikes