New York State Legislature Approves Bill Legalizing E-Bikes, E-Scooters

City Council, Mayor de Blasio must enact local law for the betterment of food delivery workers and to create legal framework for small electric vehicles in New York City
Joseph Cutrufo -
(646) 873-6027

The crackdown on delivery workers in New York City is coming to an end thanks to the overwhelming approval of legislation legalizing e-bikes and e-scooters, by a vote of 123 to 0 in the New York State Assembly and 56 to 5 in the Senate (S5294/A7431 by Ramos/Rozic).

For too long, delivery workers who use e-bikes have been subject to a draconian crackdown at the hands of Mayor de Blasio and the NYPD partly because the bikes they use have been considered illegal due to a gray area in New York State law. These workers, many of whom are in their 50s and 60s, rely on e-bikes to complete their exhausting and often dangerous, rain-or-shine jobs. The penalty for using an e-bike in New York City has included confiscation as well as fines of up to $1,000 per incident. New York City has an estimated 30,000 food delivery workers using e-bikes daily -- delivering food to New Yorkers in every neighborhood.

The new law gives municipalities the authority to regulate e-bikes locally  (the New York City Council is poised to pass a package of bills which would make them legal to operate in the five boroughs). The bill also legalizes individually owned e-scooters, which were considered illegal in New York State for the same reasons as e-bikes. Although many New Yorkers already use these small, efficient e-scooters for daily transportation, their users have not been subject to the same type of harassment delivery workers have endured for years. Localities, including the City of New York, will also be authorized to establish bike share and scooter share programs using the newly legalized devices, except that Manhattan is excluded from that authorization.

The #DeliverJustice Coalition looks forward to seeing Governor Cuomo sign the bill into law, and to work with the City Council to enhance local city law for the betterment of New York City's food delivery workers.

“I have been a delivery worker for 15 years. Delivery is a difficult job and workers rely on their own hard labor to earn money to support their families. In the past two years, the New York City government and the police department have been strictly cracking down on electric bicycles, which has made it very difficult for delivery workers to survive. Under such circumstances, delivery workers have been supported and assisted by the #DeliverJustice coalition, worker organizations, State legislators, and City Council Members. In the past two years, we have continuously appealed to the New York City government, NYC DOT, and State and City lawmakers to speak up for delivery workers. Just today, the New York State legislature passed long-awaited legislation to legalize electric bicycles. For tens of thousands of delivery workers, legalizing electric bicycles is like welcoming spring after a long, cold winter and it warms the hearts of all delivery workers. I send my heartfelt thanks to the State lawmakers, community organizations, and friends who have selflessly supported and helped to fight for and promote the state legalization of electric bicycles,” said Jiang Hao, a Chinese delivery worker. 

“E-bikes and scooters are not only safe, efficient modes of transportation, now they’re finally legal too,” said Marco Conner, Interim Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives. “The passage of this bill will not just legalize new mobility options for New Yorkers, but will also bring an end to the targeted harassment of food delivery workers who rely on e-bikes. We’re grateful to prime bill sponsors Senator Ramos and Assembly Member Rozic for guiding this legislation to passage, and look forward to working with the New York City Council and Department of Transportation to ensure the law is implemented and improved at the local level.”

“After years of organizing, the voices of workers who race around feeding this city have been heard in the Senate. This critical legislation would allow delivery workers to use their essential tool of the trade without fearing unjust police harassment and punitive fines. We thank Senator Ramos and Assembly Member Rozic for their  leadership to legalize e-bikes,” said Deborah Axt, Co-Executive Director, Make the Road New York.

“Today, we applaud the New York State legislature for delivering justice for immigrant delivery workers in New York City who for far too long have endured the nightmare of a Tale of Two E-Bikes due to New York City’s discriminatory policing of their electric bikes while doing their jobs.  In our work with other advocates, we listened to the voices of countless immigrant delivery workers who called for our government to allow them to survive. We thank Senator Ramos and Assembly Member Rozic for their leadership on this legislation and we thank the State leadership and legislature for hearing and acting upon the voices of many thousands of immigrant workers by passing this legislation.  We urge Governor Cuomo to sign this bill into law to deliver justice for immigrant delivery workers,” said Do Lee, Ph.D of Biking Public Project.

“On behalf of New York City’s food delivery workers, the Legal Aid Society extends our heartfelt thanks to Senator Ramos and Assembly Member Rozic for their leadership in enacting a law that will enable delivery workers to earn a living on legally compliant bicycles and without fear of confiscation and fines. This law is also a major victory for public safety, and for all New Yorkers who enjoy dining in with prompt delivery. We hope the City Council follows the State's lead and repeals the local ban on these bikes, in order to truly deliver justice to workers across the city,” said Steven Wasserman of Legal Aid Society of New York.

The #DeliverJustice Coalition consists of the Legal Aid Society NY, Biking Public Project, Make the Road New York and Transportation Alternatives. Teamsters Joint Council 16, ALIGN and Restaurant Opportunities Center have also supported this effort.