Pedestrians and motorists have a new headache. As this newsletter goes to press (June 18th), the New York State Legislature, in its flurry of end of session legislation, has sent to the Governor a bill legalizing e-bikes and e-scooters statewide.

Before the bill’s passage, the legality of e-bikes and e-scooters was murky. The murkiness is still there in that cities can opt-in or opt-out of the law. That means that these could be legal in one town but illegal in the next. It also appears that there has been a carve-out in that Manhattan will not be permit e-scooters based on the New York legislators’ well-founded concerns about sidewalk safety and obstruction. Localities would be given the right as to how to regulate these vehicles.

This bill would open New York to the e-scooter ride-sharing companies, such as Lyft, Bird, and Lime. These corporations pushed for the change.

Although Governor Cuomo expressed support for legalization, his office indicated that the bill would have to be reviewed.

In my opinion…

E-Bikes and E-Scooters Need Mandatory Insurance

New York City streets and sidewalks have become a battleground for pedestrians.  It is a free-for-all with pedestrians pitted against, cars, buses, trucks and bicycles. Now there is a new contender for road space, e-bikes and e-scooters.

It is time that non-regulated e-bikes and e-scooters be regulated.  I have seen deliverymen race at 18 mph and higher often ignoring traffic rules.  I have seen e-bikes and e-scooter riders use the pedestrian sidewalks.  E-bikes and their cousin, the e-scooter, can be bit as lethal as a motorcycle.  Yet, there is scant regulation and no mandatory insurance.

New York law regulates traditional motor vehicles, such as cars, trucks, buses, and motorcycles.  It even regulates all-terrain vehicles or ATV’s.  E.g., the state mandates a driver’s license and insurance to hold the owner financially responsible for injuries.  In comparison, there are scant regulations and no insurance requirements for either e-bikes or e-scooters.  The law treats these motorized vehicles no differently than a kiddie scooter operated by a five-year-old even though these vehicles can reach deadly speeds.  This gap in the law is large enough for an eight-lane highway.

As things stand now, an injured pedestrian may have no source of recovery for injuries no matter how grievous.  It is time for the City and State to put forward laws protecting both the operator and the innocent pedestrian, such as licensing and mandatory insurance.  Also, the companies renting-out these motorized vehicles should be liable for the operators’ negligence in the same manner that regular auto owners stand liable for the driver’s negligence.

In that this is a developing story, please call our office if you have any questions. We shall update the situation on our website from time to time.