StreetsPAC's Testimony to City Council on e-Bikes and e-Scooters

StreetsPAC today submitted the following testimony to the New York City Council's Committee on Transportation, in regard to its review of several pieces of legislation, including bills that would legalize certain types of electric bicycles and electric scooters:

We are pleased to offer our support for all of the legislation under consideration today.

We’re in the midst of a revolution in personal mobility, and we believe e-bikes and e-scooters have a significant role to play in helping New Yorkers to get around efficiently and safely, replacing automobile trips with more space-efficient and environmentally friendly travel modes.

Pedal-assist bikes make it easier for people of varying abilities, notably the elderly, to choose cycling as a means of getting about, and such vehicles extend the range for all people commuting by bicycle. Electric scooters can play a similar role, especially for shorter trips and last-mile connections to transit.

As Portland’s 2018 e-scooter pilot program demonstrated, a significant portion of scooter trips, which averaged a bit more than one mile, replaced trips that otherwise would have been made by personal or for-hire vehicle. We support New York City conducting its own shared-scooter pilot, as outlined in Intro 1266-2018.

In general, we believe electrically powered devices should operate at equivalent speeds and in the same manner as pedal bikes. Homogeneous traffic flow will be safest for all users, and marked differences in speed will be an invitation to conflicts. Therefore, we would urge consideration of lowering the speeds proscribed in Intro 1264-2018 and 1250-2018, respectively, to approximately 16 miles per hour for pedal-assist bicycles, and 12 miles per hour for e-scooters.

Furthermore, we believe that the most effective means of regulating speeds would be with a low-cost annual inspection system run out of local bike shops, akin to the regime for motor-vehicle inspections, with official stickers that would be prominently displayed on e-vehicles.

As the safe operation of electric scooters requires both hands on the handlebars, e-scooters should be equipped with turn signals and lights powered by the main battery, and e-bikes should also have required lights powered in the same way.

We strongly support the provisions of Intro 1264-2018 that would reduce the amount of a fine for operating a non-compliant e-bike, and provide an opportunity to cure non-compliance, and that would eliminate confiscations of non-compliant e-bikes except in cases of demonstrably reckless riding.

We also support Intro 1265-2018, which would create a subsidized conversion program to encourage workers of fully motorized e-bikes to convert them to compliant e-bikes. There are obviously many details that would need to be worked out for such a program, including funding sources, but if New York City aspires to be America’s fairest city, we must figure out a way to make this happen.

Additionally, we would support a protocol that would allow working cyclists with clean traffic records the opportunity to upgrade the speed capacity of their bicycles to 20 miles per hour.

We also strongly support Intro 1163-2018, which would mandate the preservation of bicycle lanes during street work. There’s a tremendous amount of construction underway in New York City, and far too often, accommodations for cyclists are haphazard or non-existent. Requiring uniform standards for temporary protections will go a long way toward keeping people safe.

Lastly, we support Intro 0481-2018, requiring the collection and reporting of data on electric bicycles and scooters. Such data will be fundamental to evaluating the use of e-bikes and e-scooters, and we concur with Transportation Alternatives that the disaggregated details for e-scooters and e-bikes should be available via Vision Zero View and TrafficStat.

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