Intro 0758-2022 Letter

August 30, 2023

The Honorable XXXX XXXXXX
New York City Council Member
250 Broadway, Suite XXXX
New York, NY 10007

Re: StreetsPAC’s Strong Opposition to Int. 0758-2022

Dear Council Member,

I’m writing on behalf of StreetsPAC to urge you to reconsider co-sponsorship of Int. 0758-2022, Council Member Holden’s bill that would require registration of electric bicycles, electric scooters, and other powered mobility devices.

We strongly oppose this bill and believe its passage would have several detrimental effects. The proposed legislation would require registration of any electric bicycle, including pedal-assist e-bikes such as the type offered by Citi Bike, as well as cargo bikes that have an integrated motor. Pedal-assist e-bikes are limited to 20 miles per hour, and their ability to make it easier to cover longer distances and to climb a bridge or a hill is key to their soaring popularity among commuters, working cyclists, the elderly, and people of limited mobility. Class II e-bikes, which have pedals but can also be operated by a throttle, and are popular among delivery workers, are also limited to 20 mph. These vehicles are legally defined as bicycles under New York State law.

Mandated registration of e-bikes would stop their widespread adoption in its tracks, at a time when the shifting of trips from cars to bikes is overwhelmingly seen as beneficial. Creating the infrastructure within NYCDOT to manage registration would be costly and cumbersome. Few jurisdictions around the country or the globe require licensing and registration of bikes, and those places that do use it almost exclusively to combat theft. And a registration requirement would likely be an invitation for police officers to conduct pretextual stops of black and brown people.

Rather than pursuing the misguided registration of all powered micro-mobility devices, we believe there are a number of steps that city and state government can take to address the concerns fueling this effort, which we outline in more detail below.

Mopeds & Scooters

By law, all mopeds, which are defined as “limited use motorcycles," must be registered with NYSDMV, but there are obviously thousands of these vehicles on the streets in New York City that haven’t been registered. Most of the mopeds in use today do not have legally required Vehicle Identification Numbers, and thus cannot be registered with DMV. We believe that in the same way one can’t leave a car dealership without license plates, one shouldn’t be able to ride away from a shop on a moped without it being registered and without presenting an appropriate driver’s license.

A big part of the problem is unscrupulous sellers, many of whom are knowingly selling non-registerable vehicles as “street-legal” when they are not. Many, if not most, buyers of mopeds are immigrant delivery workers, many of whom don’t speak English or at least don’t speak it well, and likely don’t fully understand the need for a registration and a driver’s license, which is also required (in addition, a motorcycle license is mandatory for operation of Class C mopeds). Creating a program that would streamline the licensure and registration process could be a big help, both in bringing the use of these vehicles into legal compliance and as an opportunity to educate riders about their legal obligations and rules of the road, such as not riding in bike lanes or on sidewalks.

As far as enforcement is concerned, we’re much bigger believers in doing the enforcement upstream, through enhanced regulation and efforts to end illegal sales, than we are in having police actively stopping people on the street. The latter type of interactions are often carried out much more aggressively against black and brown people, and in the case of delivery workers, these are hardworking people clearly just trying to do their jobs and make ends meet. We do think that NYSDMV should play a much greater regulatory function than they do now, rather than just collecting fees. There are far too many unregistered vehicles and unlicensed operators on the road, and we think the DMV can be much more active in helping to curb this rather than passing the buck. While the City Council has no authority over DMV, it should make liberal use of its oversight powers and bully pulpit.

That said, safety is paramount. While cars and trucks cause the vast majority of deaths and serious injuries on city streets and sidewalks, it would be irresponsible to dismiss the potential danger caused by someone riding a moped or e-bike in a reckless manner. Continuing improvements to infrastructure will help, like widened micro-mobility lanes that can accommodate both mechanical bikes and powered bikes and scooters. Some of these changes take time, but others can, or at least should, be implemented quickly, such as the long-delayed conversion of the Queensboro Bridge’s south outer roadway to a pedestrian path, or the allocation of one of the many lanes devoted to cars and trucks on Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges to use by legal e-bikes and scooters.

Enforcement against operators of these devices should necessarily focus on dangerous behavior, such as riding on sidewalks or through a busy crosswalk against the light or riding with excessive speed or in a reckless fashion, but it should also be done equitably. Unfortunately, NYPD hasn’t demonstrated great capacity for nuance.

On the other hand, we believe that city agencies like the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection should be playing a greater role in upstream regulation. Many of the illegal mopeds on city streets display the name of the seller where the license plate should be (if the vehicles were actually registerable), and the city should be much more active in ensuring that sellers are playing by the rules. It’s unacceptable for DCWP to say it has no oversight over the sale of illegal mopeds, and if DCWP doesn’t have sufficient manpower, then joint operations could be conducted via a task force involving NYPD and NYC DOT. Rather than confiscating mopeds from delivery workers who have shelled out weeks’ or months’ worth of wages to purchase a vehicle that they’ve likely been led to believe is legal, efforts should be focused on keeping these vehicles from making it to the street in the first place.

It's also clear that many delivery workers are turning to gas-powered mopeds because of the dangers of substandard lithium-ion batteries and the lack of sufficient charging infrastructure. The city and state should be working to make legal e-bikes more easily available and affordable to delivery workers through subsidy programs, such as the small-scale program being run by the Equitable Commute Project, and should be making a more concerted commitment to accessible charging infrastructure, rather than letting the siting of such facilities be dictated by the whims of Community Boards. The State Senate passed an e-bike rebate bill this past session, but the Assembly failed to move it, which was a major legislative failure. Connecticut, at the same time, enacted legislation that now offers state residents an e-bike rebate of up to $500 for purchase of an approved bike, and up to $1,500 if the buyer meets certain economic-need criteria. A program like this would clearly help steer purchasers toward legal e-bikes.

In addition, we have a vision of the city creating a local e-bike subsidy program for delivery workers modeled on a kind of mash-up of taxis and Citi Bikes, a sort of NYC-branded delivery bike that could be sponsored as a way of underwriting the purchase price – an idea that State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal has picked up on. While we strongly oppose licensing and registration for bikes, which has been shown around the world to depress ridership, a city- and/or sponsor-subsidized and standardized delivery e-bike could have a unique ID number the way a Citi Bike does, which would address concerns around accountability.

NYCDOT has also tried to work with restaurants in the past to do outreach and education, but with the proliferation of app-based delivery, most of the delivery workers are now working as independent contractors and not in the service of particular establishments. In addition to having app companies underwrite the purchase of standardized delivery e-bikes, compelling them to pay into some kind of fund for a robust education and compliance effort (somewhat akin to the Black Car Fund) is another idea that has merit. As things stand now, the app companies have managed to almost completely skirt responsibility and liability, while reaping the lion’s share of profits. For their part, we believe most Deliveristas do want to work as independent contractors, but they would like to see significant changes, such as the ability to refuse orders without being punished by the apps, to be able to operate over smaller geographic footprints, and to not be at the whim of customers who may or may not tip sufficiently. The boom in delivery orders certainly does not appear to be abating, and it’s critical to the success of an increasing number of restaurants, most of which are mom-and-pop businesses.

One last point on deliveries: it is highly preferable that someone rushing to make a delivery quickly so as not to lose out on a tip is doing so on an e-bike or moped rather than behind the wheel of an automobile. However much people complain about mopeds and e-bikes, the damage caused by the drivers of cars is magnitudes worse.


The use of unsafe batteries is also a huge issue, given the number of deadly fires that have resulted from storing and charging faulty batteries indoors. It’s clear that some are seizing on the dangers posed by battery fires to promote a crackdown on e-bikes generally. Again, we’re dealing with a relatively under-informed user base for whom cheaper reconditioned and non-UL-listed batteries are more financially workable, so a potential solution would be for government to subsidize a battery-upgrade program to help get dangerous batteries out of circulation. We strongly support recently passed legislation creating a low-cost or no-cost battery-exchange program, but our understanding is that no funds were allocated for this in the 2023-24 city budget. That must be rectified, since getting dangerous batteries out of circulation should be a top priority.

Secure outdoor storage options, like Oonee, would also help to get potentially unsafe batteries out of apartments and houses, as well (full disclosure: Oonee CEO Shabazz Stuart is a member of StreetsPAC’s board). The city has a huge need for secure on-street bike storage, which would have multiple benefits (reduction in bike thefts, easier for people with small apartments or walkups to own a bike, etc.), and integrating safe battery-charging and storage mechanisms would be a substantial additional benefit.

Related Reading and Actions

We highly recommend this article published last week by Streetsblog NYC: “The Moped Crisis — An Analysis: The City Needs a Systemic Fix, Justice for Workers and Accountability by Tech Giants,” which dives deeply into many of these concerns. We also believe it would be beneficial to discuss these issues with the Workers Justice Project and Los Deliveristas Unidos. And please always feel free to use us proactively as a resource on matters like this.

We would welcome the opportunity to speak further with you about the issues surrounding e-bikes, mopeds, and scooters, and respectfully ask that you rescind your co-sponsorship of Int. 0758-2022.


Eric W. McClure
Executive Director

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Showing 4 reactions

commented 2023-09-11 12:59:32 -0400 · Flag
One more important thing — it is not up to the City or the taxpayers to provide outdoor “storage space” for privately owned bikes, or battery charging stations for privately owned bikes or private enterprise like the restaurant trade and delivery apps. Why should the public hand over valuable public space and pay for private enterprise. By comparison, I lost three storage bins worth of property in my own building to a public water main break that flooded the Lincoln Square district and that occurred down the block from my building, and the City reimbursed me nothing for my tens of thousands of dollars worth of irreplaceable loss on private property. Now you want me to pay for someone to ride a high speed e-bike aimed in my direction? You have got to be kidding!
commented 2023-09-10 23:09:58 -0400 · Flag
I think you are delusional if you think e-vehicles are limited to 20 miles an hour and are ridden by the elderly and mobility-challenged. I’m a cyclist an I know what 20 miles an hour on a bike looks like. And whether it’s ripping down a bike lane or blowing by me on the park drive, they are doing well over 20 miles an hour. And I’ll bet for every senior or mobility-challenged person you can show me on an e-bike, I can show you 100 joyriders or deliveryperson whose only goal is to go as fast as they can.
commented 2023-09-08 13:12:22 -0400 · Flag
Traditional enforcement is NOT possible when vehicles are traveling at dangerously high rates of speed. This “let’s coddle the reckless” has got to end. The ONLY way there can be enforcement of anyone zooming through a red light, zooming the wrong up a one-way street, or zooming all over the sidewalk in these motorized vehicles is through CAMERA enforcement: capturing license plate numbers and issuing repeated and heavy fines. Getting fines corrects behaviors. If the fines don’t get paid, the bikes get confiscated. END OF STORY. I don’t care what color the rider is, whether the rider is rich or poor, working or just playing around. On my tombstone, I don’t want it to read, “That hit and run driver was just doing his job!” If someone wants to ride any vehicle in this City, let that person get trained, pass a test, get a license, get a license plate, get insurance, and then get on the road and OBEY all the rules like everyone else. People are getting maimed, traumatized, and killed. I can no longer walk without real fear. I’m 68 years old with severe arthritis: two bad feet, one bad knee, and always stressed from the fear of being a bowling pin. I walk around this City screaming at people to stop running red lights and stop riding on the sidewalk. They yell back at me, threaten me, insult me, terrorize me just for walking. Nothing is greener than my two legs! PASS ROBERT HOLDEN’S PUBLIC SAFETY BILL!
commented 2023-09-08 11:25:32 -0400 · Flag
I completely disagree with this and urge every council member to sign this petition. My 15 year old son was hit by a motorized scooter/e-bike. The current lack of registration creates an environment where people who have lost their license due to drunk driving are legally allowed to operate a motorized vehicle capable of injuring innocent victims. Due to the lack of oversight and regulation there is no registration, licensing or insurance. The man who struck my son weighed over 200 lbs. He was drunk and had a bottle of liquor on him at the time of the accident. 200lbs at 20 mph = a loss of considerable, seizures, a broken nose, concussion multiple bruises, cuts and scratches and memory deficits. Everyone has a right to the road – anything that uses it that is powered by anything other than a human should be registered and insured. Operators should be required to be licensed.
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