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EDITORIAL: Tweak e-bike bill to address Cuomo's safety concerns

EDITORIAL: Tweak e-bike bill to address Cuomo's safety concerns

Original bill was already comprehensive, but more safety and consistency elements will make it even better

There was really no good reason for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to veto the bill that would have expanded the use of e-bikes and scooters in New York.

The bill (A7431B/S5294A) — which passed the Legislature earlier this year with almost unanimous, upstate-downstate, bipartisan support — had plenty of safety protections for the public already.

Among the protections were special definitions for each type of e-vehicle and reasonable limits on the top speed each class of vehicle was capable of obtaining without operator assistance.

Other states and cities across the country have safely introduced this new mode of transportation, with no more safety issues and accidents in general than traditional bikes and scooters.

And the vehicles have proven to be invaluable to local delivery people, older riders and those with physical limitations, as well as impoverished and minority communities, where people need inexpensive, reliable transportation to get to work and can’t afford cars.

The most important safety element of the legislation was giving local municipalities the authority to regulate and even prohibit the use of e-bikes and scooters within their borders.

These vehicles were not being forced upon anyone, and localities would have had the power to impose their own speed limits, set limits on where the vehicles could be ridden, impose conditions such as helmet requirements, and establish their own enforcement and penalties.

Nonetheless, the governor felt his safety concerns overrode the many protections already contained in the bill, which we strongly endorsed in July.

If a few safety issues were truly the reasons for the governor’s veto, then amending the bill to address them shouldn’t take too much effort.

Lawmakers could impose a statewide helmet regulation for riders.

That seems a bit onerous, since current state law only requires helmets for riders under age 14, and since e-bikes and scooters can’t go much faster than traditional bikes and scooters.

Lawmakers could agree to lower the maximum speed of motorized assist-vehicles to 15 mph, from the current 20. That’s closer to the average speed of a traditional bike rider. 

And to make local laws more consistent statewide, they could set more regulations for where such bikes could be ridden, lights and bells, and penalties.

The bill vetoed by the governor already addressed many safety concerns. 

But if a few more tweaks to make the  public safer and the law more consistent will get him to sign a revised version, then lawmakers should add them and get this law on the books.

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