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Electric Bikes Banned in NYC, Biking Law a Little Short-Sighted

New York City Will Fine you $1,000 for Riding This Electric Bike
New York City Will Fine you $1,000 for Riding This Electric Bike

Electric bikes are a great way to get around, especially on city streets. They take up almost no room and you can park them practically anywhere.

In New York City, you can also get fined up to $1,000 for riding an electric bike. Electric bikes have actually been outlawed in New York State since 2004, because they are too much like scooters in speed, but have no safety lighting and can travel on bike paths. The law views these bikes as unlicensed and uninsured [no VIN] vehicles being operated by unlicensed [no motorcycle permit] operators. Typical Albany bureaucracy, actually.

Granted, on a bike path or busy city street, and electric bike going up to 30mph can be a hazard and there have been numerous accidents and complaints. Still, is hiking the fine from $500 to $1,000 a good way to regulate electric bikes? As New York tries to increase adoption of cleaner transportation, such as the Bike Share program, the new fine seems to be more of the typical backward thinking that comes with anything new.

New York City Council member Jessica Lappin calls electric bikes a scourge, and David Pollack of the Committee for Taxi Safety calls them a “menace to society.” It’s not the bikes that are the problem, it’s how they are used and where they are used. I’m sure we can come up with a better solution than an all-out ban, ridiculous fines, or confiscation, to make the streets safer and the air cleaner, for everyone.

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