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Are e-scooters and e-bikes legal in New York?

Electronic bikes and scooters have become a popular attraction in major cities, including San Francisco, St. Louis, Chicago, Washington D.C., Dallas and more. However, travelling at speeds up to 20 miles per hour, it's easy to see how these vehicles could be a danger to pedestrians and drivers on busy New York streets.

Yet, the introduction of these renting services seemed imminent earlier this year. That is, until the borough of Manhattan had something to say about it.

A hot debate

E-Scooter rental company representatives, lobbyists, and New York City political officials all engaged in conversations about these vehicles earlier this year. In fact, the industry's leaders, Lime Bike and Bird, reportedly spent $230,000 last year in New York lobbying efforts.

On the one hand, the venture may seem like a profitable way to entice tourists and reduce overcrowding in New York's crumbling public transit system. But, at the other end of the spectrum, the city's infrastructure can easily lead the fast-traveling, unfamiliar vehicles to pose a threat to public safety.

Zoning laws encourage curbside parking spaces, which don't leave any room to store the dockless scooters safely. Additionally, summer construction and the city's overall lack of space in proportion to its eight million residents leaves little room for operating errors.

Legality today

Until recently, many were counting on Governor Cuomo proposed plan to allow localities to vote on the legality of the vehicles. However, the proposal was tabled after a Manhattan senator expressed concerns that the borough's streets and bike lanes would not be able to accommodate the vehicles.

Those who opt to use e-bike and e-scooters today risk penalties, including a fine up to $500 for e-bike riders. Because the vehicles are not street legal, they're also likely to make the operator liable for injuries or damages they may cause in an accident.

Potential for danger

Thus far, these vehicles have proved to have significant safety concerns. There have already been three separate incidents of operator fatalities in New York using private-owned e-scooters.

Rental e-scooters have caused an uptick in emergency room visits in other cities, as most operators are unfamiliar with the functionality of the vehicles. A loss in balance, cracks in the road, obstacle or pedestrian can easily lead an inexperienced rider to crash. Since the vehicles travel up to 20 miles per hour, these crashes can be deadly for all parties involved.

For now, New Yorkers will have to travel elsewhere to get on board with this new trend.

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