Electric bikes and scooters may soon be populating NYC’s streets, if it is up to Brooklyn Councilmember Rafael Espinal who introduced on Wednesday a legislation package to legalize them. 

The NYPD currently fines e-bike riders $500 for operating their vehicles on city streets, which often affects low-wage, immigrant workers and delivery drivers who have particularly suffered from the city’s enforcement crackdown.

The proposed legislation would cut down the fines for unauthorized bikes to $100 while establishing a program that will subsidize the cost of converting e-bikes into legalized ones with capped speeds of 20mph to meet general safety concerns. Scooter speeds would be capped at 15 mph.

Councilmember Rafael Espinal. Photo credit: Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats

“We cannot claim to be a city that cherishes our immigrant community while simultaneously implementing discriminatory practices against a workforce that is predominantly made up of immigrants,” said Espinal who represents the 37th District including Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brownsville, Bushwick, Crown Heights, Cypress Hills, and East New York. “Legalizing e-bikes is an essential step in giving delivery workers greater job stability and better working conditions. The city should be doing everything in its power to support one of our growing industries and its workers.”

According to Espinal, e-scooters and e-bikes will have an overall positive impact on NYC’s transit landscape. Switching to low-emissions electric vehicles will improve the air quality and ease congestion by providing an alternative for people who might otherwise take a car, he stated. 

And: It could help commuters get where they need to go during the impending L-train shutdown. Part of the legislation package is also a proposed e-scooter pilot program. The pilot’s location will be determined by the Department of Transportation, but priority will be given to neighborhoods most affected by the L-train shutdown and those with the least access to bike-sharing, Espinal stated.

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