Four Transportation and Street Safety Bills That Albany Failed to Pass
Every year, several worthy street safety and transportation bills make it through either the State Senate or the Assembly but not the other house. This year, bills on four key issues made it through the Senate before dying in the Assembly.
A bill to legalize electric-assist bicycles came very close to passing both chambers. Currently the federal government permits the sale of these bikes, but the state prohibits them on public roads. For years, a bill to legalize them has passed the Assembly while action stalled in the Senate. This year, the Senate passed the bill first, giving advocates hope it would clear both chambers.
Over the past few months, the New York Bicycling Coalition put pressure on Speaker Carl Heastie, including an e-bike lobby day on May 12. The bill appeared on the Assembly’s calendar of bills under consideration in the last week of the session, but never received a vote. “We’re pretty disappointed by that,” said Josh Wilson, legislative advocate at NYBC. “We really thought we had a chance.”
Advocates focused on securing support from Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle. “A lot of our members, particularly those in his district, were making phone calls in support of the bill,” Wilson said. “They were being told by staff in his office that it was going to be voted on, and it just never was.”
While the bill would have legalized e-bikes in New York and brought the state in line with federal law, it also included a prohibition on operators or passengers under the age of 16, which Wilson said would be an issue for families looking to use e-assist cargo bikes. Anyone using an e-bike would also have been required to wear a helmet. Wilson hopes for legislation next session to legalize electric-assist bicycles without subjecting them to additional rules.
Also clearing the Senate but not the Assembly: a pair of bills to toughen penalties for drivers who harm people.
Legislation from Senator Martin Golden would have closed a loophole that gives drunk drivers an incentive to flee the scene of a crash, but failed to clear the Assembly after overwhelmingly passing the Senate.
A bill from Sen. Michael Gianaris and Assembly Member Marge Markey would have strengthened penalties for unlicensed drivers who injure or kill people on the road. Instead of getting a low-level misdemeanor for unlicensed operation, the drivers would instead face felony charges for vehicular assault or vehicular homicide. The Senate passed the bill, 61-1, but the Assembly did not take action.
Finally, a bill to add a bicycle and pedestrian safety component to driver’s education in New York, sponsored by Golden, passed the Senate. It never got out of committee in the Assembly, where it was sponsored by Walter Mosley.