E-bikes Finally Finding a Place in New York


by Contributor

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(Jun. 12, 2019) — The restrictions implied on electric bikes by New York have been liberalized, following which e-bike sharing is set to grow.

Around 50,000 delivery workers linger the New York street regularly, a majority of them riding e-bikes as per their advocates. With long shifts lasting easily up to 10 hours for six days every week, the electric bicycle has become a crucial aid. However, the illegality of e-bikes in the city often led to penalties and fines for the delivery executives until recently.

Finally beginning to embrace the electric-assisted bikes, the city has not only amended its e-bike rules but is also introducing e-bike sharing programs aimed at tourists and commuters.

What is an E-bike and is it Legal?

An e-bike refers to a bicycle featuring an electric motor that assists riders in attaining greater speeds with less effort. Picking up popularity in the last decade, they have become very common in China and Europe. In the US, the majority of e-bike users consist of delivery workers.

While they were illegal, the new law has made pedal-assist e-bikes legal. These boost the rider, permitting the rider to ride up to 20 mph. The throttle bikes that do not require any rider assistance and can achieve speeds of approximately 28 mph are still banned. However, the throttle bikes are favored by most delivery cyclists.

Why was e-bike Riding Illegal?

The illegal status of the e-bikes is a complicated concept, relating to a broader State Law requiring e-bike riders to register in a similar fashion to cars, mopeds or motorcycles. Ironically, the state (and hence, the city) prohibits the registration of certain vehicles like go-karts, golf carts, and e-bikes. While selling e-bikes has always been legal in New York, riding them hasn’t. The law aims to amend this.

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What is the Penalty for Riding Throttle E-bikes?

Yidi Zhu, a food delivery guy based in Chinatown, had his bike seized and was handed a $500 ticket for riding a throttle e-bike. He said, “I had to go to court to get the bike back, so I lost four or five days of work.” His total loss was estimated at $1,500, equivalent to a new e-bike’s cost or approximately three-quarters of an average delivery man’s monthly remuneration.

Will Throttle Bikes be Made Legal?

While the mayor has only backed the pedal-assist bikes; Eric Adams, who is Brooklyn’s borough president, expressed his belief that a worker’s device shouldn’t be illegal. He said, “The motorized bikes the delivery personnel use is something that we should find a way to incorporate into the system.”

How Does the Sharing Program Work?

Many big names like Citi Bike, Lime and Jump have introduced sharing programs for e-bikes. While the Citi’s e-system follows a similar procedure and cost as of common bikes, Lime and Jump require you to register with their application. However, the Lime and Jump e-bikes are dockless and can be locked to any pole when done.

Do Pedal Enthusiasts Hate E-bikes?

Many do, but they shouldn’t. An e-bike requires work and doesn’t let you simply depend on the vehicle to move your forward. You still have to pedal, but with assistance from the motor. It makes it easier to climb hills and pedal greater distance with ease.

What does E-bike Riding Feel Like in New York?

For 15 years, I have been a regular cyclist in New York. Having used e-bikes on varied challenging terrains like the Swiss Alps, I simply assumed that an e-bike had no place in New York for an avid cyclist. However, even strong riders can be tempted.

Being a test site for Lime and Jump bikes and featuring wide expanses and steep hills, I picked St. George, Staten Island for my test ride. I took a long two-hour ride for just $6 and it didn’t feel like an arduous exercise. When I got back to my regular ride, I felt spoiled. The two hours of assisted biking made normal biking feel like a chore.

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