New York City could finally make electric bikes and scooters legal — and Bird is already gearing up to launch

  • Four bills introduced to New York’s City Council on Wednesday could make electric bikes and scooters legal and establish a pilot program for dockless e-scooters.
  • Bird, one of the largest scooter operators, appears already gearing up to launch, with job postings for NYC operations staff appearing soon after the bills were introduced.

America’s largest city is still a no-man’s land for electric bikes and scooters.

While dockless scooters are all the rage in cities across the United States, New York has remained on the sidelines. Electric scooters are still illegal on city streets, and electric bikes are limited to “pedal assist” versions which accelerate only when the rider is pedalling.

That could soon change.

Three city council members on Wednesday introduced a package of four bills which would legalise most e-bikes as well as electric scooters. One bill would legalise their presence (up to 15 mph) while another would create a pilot program similar to the current one with dockless Lime bikes in areas not served by adequate public transit in Staten Island, the Rockaways, and the Bronx.

(The fourth bill would assist riders in converting their existing electric bikes to legal models).

Almost immediately, job postings appeared on Bird’s website for a general manager, and operations coordinators and associates in New York. The $US2 billion startup already has a somewhat secretive presence in the city, providing test rides to select journalists on its private property in Brooklyn.

Both Bird and Lime have been lobbying the council for permission for some time. According to Thinknum, government relations positions for Bird were filled as early as July. Lime was hiring for a similar role that same month. Bird did not respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.

In a statement, Lime’s senior director for the east coast, Phil Jones, said the company supports the legislation as a way to provide “reliable and affordable” transportation for all New Yorkers.

The key legal issue for electric bikes and scooters currently is how they’re classified under the law. This legislation would change that, one of the sponsors said.

“What we’re trying to do is classify the e-bikes and scooters as devices instead of vehicles,” Councilman Rafael Espinal, a sponsor of the bill, told the Times. “The mayor’s position has always been that e-bikes are a nuisance, a problem, within the five boroughs. I think we found a path forward.”

It’s unclear if Mayor Bill de Blasio – who has a contentious relationship with electric bikes, and has been criticised for the ticketing and seizure of delivery bikes – will support the bill.

A City Hall spokesperson said that “While e-scooters are illegal under State and City law, the Mayor is committed to innovation as part of his all-of-the-above transportation strategy to get New Yorkers moving again. We look forward to reviewing the proposals.”

Bird scooters were spotted on New York City streets by some observant pedestrians as early as August.

If you’ve seen others, let us know when and where (along with any other tips!) Contact this reporter via Signal or WhatsApp at +1 (646) 376-6102 using a non-work phone, email at [email protected], or Twitter DM at@g_rapier.
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