TransAlt Backs Albany E-Bike Bill With No Helmet or Age Restrictions

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Thomas O'Mara of Elmira and Brooklyn Assembly rep Nick Perry, would enable adults to carry children on e-bikes.

Photo: Washington Bikes
Photo: Washington Bikes

Transportation Alternatives has issued a memo of support for an e-bike bill that is an improvement over the one introduced by Martin Dilan and David Gantt.

State Senator Dilan, of Brooklyn, and Assembly Member Gantt of Rochester have for years introduced legislation that would define electric bikes as bicycles, rather than motor vehicles, correcting a kink in state law that makes e-bikes legal to own but illegal to operate on public streets. Lawmakers have repeatedly failed to get the bill to the governor’s desk.

The TransAlt-backed bill, sponsored by Sen. Thomas O’Mara of Elmira and Brooklyn Assembly rep Nick Perry, is superior to Dilan/Gantt in a few ways.

Dilan/Gantt would require helmets for all e-bike riders, which would discourage ridership. It would also ban people age 16 and under from riding e-bikes, even as passengers — meaning, for example, parents would be prohibited from transporting children. The O’Mara/Perry bill does not have those restrictions.

Like Dilan/Gantt, O’Mara/Perry would limit electric motors to 750 watts and govern top speeds at 20 mph.

The O’Mara/Perry bill passed the State Senate last year but died in Gantt’s Assembly transportation committee.

Dilan is a co-sponsor of O’Mara/Perry, which according to TransAlt Legislative and Legal Director Marco Conner is backed by “a growing coalition of organizations and businesses.”

“It is the legislation with the buy-in and momentum to pass this session,” Conner told Streetsblog.

You can check out the TransAlt support memo here.

Brooklyn City Council Member Rafael Espinal, who publicly called on Mayor de Blasio to cease harassing working cyclists who rely on e-bikes, has drafted a resolution in support of the Dilan/Gantt bill. Streetsblog has a message in with Espinal’s office to gauge his position on O’Mara/Perry.

  • Joe R.

    Excellent! This is the bill which needs to pass this year. It not only legalizes e-bikes, but places no more restrictions on their use than regular pedal bikes.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Like Dilan/Gantt, O’Mara/Perry would limit electric motors to 750 watts and govern top speeds at 20 mph.”

    Sounds reasonable, and it seems we are seeing the development of a new form of transportation. Like bicycles, and unlike scooters and motorcycles, e-bikes are light enough to hang on the wall.

    When you add this to Citibike and the like, barriers to getting around by bicycle are falling. You get an assist if you travel long distances or can’t make a hill, and if you have no place to put your own bike you can borrow one.

    Thank you France and China. We need technology to create new things as fast as prior generations use up the old ones!

  • AnoNYC

    According to the NY state DMV, you can a scooter/motorcycle/moped with a top speed up up to 20 MPH without a helmet and only a drivers license. If it goes up to 30 MPH, you must have a helmet but you only need a drivers license.

  • Elizabeth F

    There are NO age restrictions in NY State for carrying passengers on motorcycles. That’s right… you can carry your six-year-old child on your Harley on the Cross Bronx Expressway or NY State Thruway. And this has not been a problem. Prohibiting child passengers from e-bikes would seem inconsistent and non-sensical.

  • Elizabeth F

    The TransAlt-backed bill looks really good. Define e-bikes, then add “or e-bike” every time the word “bicycle” appears in the law. No extra, unnecessary regulations or restrictions.

    However… although this law might make people feel more comfortable about e-bikes, it doesn’t change their legal status in NYC. Class 1 e-bikes are legal today in NYC, and this law will legalize them statewaide. Class 2 (throttle-based) e-bikes are illegal today statewide, and they will remain so. Most delivery workers use class 2 e-bikes. So the problem remains that the sale and use of “illegal e-bikes” remains rampant in NYC, in spite of laws banning them. And delivery workers will still be subject to seizure of their class 2 e-bikes.

    This can all be solved by bringing existing e-bikes in line with the proposed law. That will require nothing more than: (1) Permanently disable the throttle with a bit of 5-minute epoxy, and (2) permanently affix a sticker to the bike. Every e-bike user in NYC should seriously consider these actions TODAY.

    E-bike shops also need to stop selling illegal e-bikes. There are laws against it, but they are not effective. City Councilor Rafael Espinal might consider local NYC laws that would work better. It makes no sense to ban class 2 e-bikes, but have them openly for sale across the city.

  • Abraham Lincoln once said:

    A dog has four legs. If you call its tail a leg, how many legs does it have then? Answer: four. Calling its tail a leg does not make it a leg.

    Likewise, calling an e-bike a bicycle does not make it a bicycle. An e-bike is a motorcycle, by virtue its motor. E-bikes do not, under any circumstances, belong in bicycle lanes or on any bicycle infrastructure.

    E-bikes should be legal, of course. But they should be treated as motorcycles, the same as 50cc scooters which go at the same speed. Therefore e-bikes should require a licence and registration.

    Any bill that allows the use of these motorcycles in bicycle lanes is unacceptable. We must keep these and all other motorcycles out of bicycle lanes.

  • Jason

    When I was in Milan last summer, I tried out their bikeshare system, which is a mixed system of both regular and electric bikes. Besides the things just being a ton of fun to ride, it really enhanced my trip—I was able to cover more ground than I would have otherwise, and even though it was ungodly hot out while I was there I was able to ride without getting covered in sweat.

  • Elizabeth F

    I know I will never convince you. But I will explain… again… for the benefit of other readers. Here is why e-bikes need to use bicycle infrastructure:

    1. Regulations on the use of bicycle infrastructure should be based on the size, weight and speed of the vehicle, not the source of its power. E-bike + rider falls within the size, weight and speed range of manual bicycles. Some manual bikers can routinely pass and keep ahead of e-bikes.

    2. Like pedestrians and manual bike riders, e-bike riders are “vulnerable street users” — meaning, they will be just as dead as anyone else when run over by a box truck. They need the same protection as any other bicycle rider.

    3. E-bikes are not allowed to use “motor vehicle only” lanes. Without being able to use either bike paths or highways, they would be confined to local roads and unable to efficiently go the long distances within and around NYC typically required day to day. This would increase conflict with automobiles and risk to the e-bike rider.

    4. Without the use of bike lanes or “motor vehicle only” lanes, e-bikes would not be able to legally cross most of the bridges in NYC — and the ones they can cross legally would be quite dangerous.

    5. Pedal assist e-bikes use bicycle infrastructure in Europe with few problems.

    6. The more people use bicycle infrastructure, the more we value it as a society, the more funding it is likely to get in the future, and the more infrastructure we will get in the future. This benefits everyone.

  • Joe R.

    Your last point is particularly relevant. E-bikes enable people to take trips they might not otherwise have the strength or stamina for. This in turn greatly increases the advocacy base for bicycle infrastructure. E-bikes enable lots of people who would otherwise see bicycle infrastructure as something only the young or strong can use as something they too can use.

  • Joe R.

    Nobody is calling an e-bike or pedalec a bicycle. Rather, the laws are allowing e-bikes to be legally treated the same as manual bicycles for the reasons Elizabeth gave. You or I may not use e-bikes now, or perhaps ever, but it’s in our long-term best interests for e-bikes to be treated like pedal bikes as it greatly increases the advocacy base for bicycle infrastructure.

  • Larry Littlefield

    It’s about weight and speed.

    E-bikes weight about 50 pounds. The legislation says they are capped at 20 mph.

    Heavier that a regular bike, let alone a racing bike, and faster than I ride.

    But a lot less than a Harley Hog, which is more than 800 lbs and can reach highway speeds.

  • Elizabeth F

    > weight about 50lb.

    ..which is double the weight of a typical manual bike. Sounds like a BIG difference… until you consider the rider and cargo. The average American man weighs 195lb, and average American woman weighs 165lb. Add another 10lb for U-lock, backpack and miscellaneous. So now we have the following weights:

    Man on e-bike: 255lb
    Man on manual bike: 230lb
    Woman on e-bike: 225lb
    Woman on manual bike: 200lb

    So… the man on e-bike weighs about 26% more than the woman on a manual bike. Does that mean they cannot share a bike path? A man on an e-bike is a LOT closer in weight to a woman on a manual bike than even the smallest car on the road.

    Should we ban men from the bike paths or make separate bikes paths for men and women due to the weight difference? If so, should we allow women on e-bikes to ride on the “men’s” bike path because they weight the same? Should we ban fat people?

    > faster than I ride.

    But not faster than some people ride.

  • Elizabeth F

    > As an aside, I also think e-bikes will make bike lanes safer by reducing the speed differential between weak and strong riders.

    If there are enough e-bikes, then bike lanes could become safer by forcing everyone to go at a moderate speed. But are bike lanes particularly dangerous as is? I cannot recall any reports of bikers getting seriously injured in bike lane crashes.

  • No absurd comparison is to a Harley has bern made. The type of motorcycle to which an e-bike may be compared is, as I mentioned, a 50cc scooter. The rules and restrictions that apply to that machine are the ones appropriate for an e-bike.

  • E-bikes are not allowed to use “motor vehicle only” lanes.

    A nonsense statement, because e-bikes are currently not allowed to use any lanes.

    Under the appropriate legal regime, e-bikes could use — indeed, would be required to use — motor vehicle lanes. They could then cross any bridge, just as a 50cc scooter can do.

  • Elizabeth F

    > A nonsense statement, because e-bikes are currently not allowed to use any lanes.

    Pedal assist e-bikes are legal in NYC today. They treated like any other bicycle by law. The proposed law in Albany will not change that in NYC.

  • Nobody is calling an e-bike or pedalec a bicycle.

    Read more closely. Some are indeed saying exactly that.

    You or I may not use e-bikes now, or perhaps ever,

    Who says? I could easily imagine using an e-bike when I get older, if they were legalised. The electric GenZe scooter, which is currently legal (though not allowed on bike infrastructure) is also something I could see myself riding.

    And, despite my dislike for gas-powered vehicles, I admit that I wouldn’t completely rule out a gas-powered 50cc scooter, as such a vehicle can get 100 miles to the gallon of gas.

    What all of these things have in common is that none of them are bicycles (and none merit being treated as bicycles). All of these vehicles should be subject to the same set of restrictions.

  • Joe R.

    Besides that the weight differential between a child cyclist and an adult is way greater than that between an e-bike and a pedal bike. The idea is bike paths are for vehicles which weigh within the same order of magnitude, say 50 pounds total for a very small child on a very small bike, to perhaps 300 or 400 pounds for a very fat cyclist on a heavy bike.

  • Joe R.

    Don’t know why you or anyone else would even consider a 50cc scooter these days. Buying one of those is like buying an incandescent bulb. It’s obsolete technology with a lot of downsides. The biggest one is having to get gas for it. Any type of e-bike or electric scooter can just be plugged in. All of them are small enough and light enough to be bought into any apartment where you can bring a regular bike.

  • Joe R.

    A lot of NYC’s bike lanes are really too narrow for safe passing but a lot of people try it anyway. My thinking is eventually many of the cyclists who are most likely to get passed, namely those who poke along at 8 or 10 mph, will eventually get e-bikes and start going between 15 and 20 mph. That should decrease the urge of others to pass them. For example, when I’m stuck behind someone going 10 mph I can’t wait to pass them, but if I’m behind someone going 18 mph, I’ll probably won’t bother, even on a day when I feel like riding at 22 mph.

    It’s isn’t that bike lanes now are particularly dangerous, but as bikes get more popular most of NYC’s bike lanes can’t cope with both heavy bike traffic and lots of passing. If we can normalize speeds of 15 to 20 mph with widespread adoption of e-bikes in the lousier bike lanes it would help prevent even a lot of minor incidents. It would also make riding more pleasant for everyone.

  • mobilemann

    scooters shouldn’t be prohibited from bike lanes either. You need to get with the times.

  • A vehicle that goes 30 miles per hour has no legitimate place in bicycle infrastucture. This is true regardless of whether the motor powering that vehicle runs on gas or on a battery.

  • mobilemann

    normal bikes can easily go 30, and do. Most of these bikes are limited to 20. I guess you don’t live near one of the east river crossings. You don’t know what you’re talking about.

  • A normal bike ridden by an ordinary rider can go at 30 miles per hour only on an extreme downhill. I have hit that speed on only a handful of occasions; I recall once on Broadway in Washington Heights, and once on Kingsbridge Road in the Bronx. And I can state categorically that that is entirely too fast for a bicycle to go on a New York City street.

    The distance that I live from any East River crossing is irrelevant. But I will mention that, living in Woodhaven, I am about 7 or 8 miles from all the crossings. Woodhaven, sitting on the Brooklyn/Queens border and being an hour’s ride from the Financial District, Midtown, and Harlem, thus qualifies as the Centre of the Universe.

  • mobilemann

    Well then ebikes will only go 30 in those situations too. Either way, you’re insinuation that this is a normal speed is incorrect, and i’m out there in it daily. (I don’t ride an ebike) Please stop exaggerating to make your point, it discredits you.

  • Edward Busk

    eBikes have many wonderful benefits and very few disadvantages. They allow people to go much further than standard bikes, without increasing danger by increasing top speed. (Class 1 eBikes are capped at 20mph). An eBike is a genuine means of transportation that gives a little exercise, rather than a means of exercise that gives a little transportation. Looking at the city’s snarled up streets and pollution we could use something that people can get around on in the heat without getting too sweaty. Also they have zero pollution at point of use and do 2000 MPGe. What’s not to like?! Any rider who drives badly should be prosecuted – just as with ordinary bikes, just as with any other road vehicles. Bring NY law in line with Federal Law – which explicitly allows them!

  • Edward Busk

    A slightly bigger dog is still a dog. A fit young man produces 400 Watts or so and can easily do 24+ mph. Racing bike, narrow tires….A fit young man on an eBike will actually go slower…the motor cuts out at 20 and there is some drag. eBikes are more often ridden by older more sensible riders…easier to control than a speed demon on a racer. The answer is allow eBikes and improve size of bicycle infrastructure. Also Ferdinand Cesarano have you ever tried an eBike…?

  • Edward Busk

    a 50 cc scooter weighs over 100 pounds, has 2-4 hp, and does 30 to 40 mph. an eBike weighs 50 pounds, has less than 1hp, and does 19.5 mph. Completely different.

  • Edward Busk

    eBikes only do 20! Or the ones mentioned here. Beyond that they should be mopeds.

  • Edward Busk

    Well said

  • I have not tried an e-bike. But perhaps one day after they are legalised I will do so.

    Hopefully this will require me to show my driver’s licence, because an e-bike, like a gas-powered 50cc scooter, should require a licence to operate. This is currently the case for the GenZe electric scooter, which can be registered and carries licence plates. It requires a licence to drive; and it cannot be ridden in bike lanes or on any other bicycle infrastructure.

    The point is that there is no good reason to treat motorcycles with electric motors any different to how we treat similarly powerful motorcycles that have gasoline motors.

  • No, a 50cc scooter cannot go 40 miles per hour. It can perhaps approach 30 miles per hour on a downhill; but it cannot generally exceed 20 for long. It is precisely comparable to an e-bike; and the exact same regulations should apply to both.

  • Edward Busk

    Ok, as I wrote later in the post, I think you may be misinformed about what an eBike is.

    50cc gas powered moped: 2-4hp, 30 to 40 mph, weighs 100lbs+.
    eBike (class 1, no license): less than 1hp, 20 mph, 50lbs.

    Ordinary bike: 1/2 to 1hp, 15 – 25 mph, 30 lbs

    They are not similarly powerful as gas bikes. They are the same as a fit rider. That’s the whole point of them. They are just bikes that go further and get you there without being sweaty.

    I don’t know the Genze’s power but the top speed (they don’t mention on the site) is 30 mph, but given the battery size (3 times an ebike) I’m guessing it’s more of a moped. Also it weighs 230 lbs. This is a completely different class of machine to an eBike.

    Do you understand Ferdinand?

  • Edward Busk

    Seems you’ve ridden neither a scooter or an eBike.

    Perhaps get a bit more educated before you comment?

    See this from Google: 50cc scooters typically have a maximum speed of 35 to 40 miles per hour (heavier riders will likely experience a lower top speed). If you will only be using the scooter to drive on roads that are 40 MPH or less, a 50cc scooter will give you the best gas mileage, sometimes more than 100 MPH.

  • I do not claim to have ever ridden either type of motorised vehicle. Though I assume that I will eventually ride one or the other (or both) as I get older. I am not at all against either of these types of vehicles. While I am no fan of combustion engines in general, I am aware that a 50cc scooter can get 100 miles per gallon of gas. And I have said repeatedly that the equivalent vehicle with an electric motor should be legal.

    I have talked to several people who ride 50cc scooters. None of them claimed to be able to go faster than 20 miles per hour regularly, though they did acknowledge that they could push it to 30 on occasion. Absolutely no one I have ever talked to has made a claim of 40 miles per hour on a 50cc scooter. The speeds are directly comparable to the speeds attainable on an e-bike.

    This is why both of these vehicles should be governed by the same laws regarding registration, licensure, and the appropriate lane to ride in. When someone riding one of these vehicles crosses a bridge, that person should ride with the cars, not with the bikes.

  • Edward Busk

    This is the strangest conversation. You seem completely unaware of, or have decided to ignore, what are well known, simple facts. Your entire argument seems to be “speeds are directly comparable”. This is simply not true. Here are some examples:

    Class 1 eBike = 20mph.

    Vespa 50 cc scooter = 39 mph (Look it up!!)
    Honda 50 cc scooter (Metroplitan) = 42 mph (Look it up!!)
    Tao Tao 50 cc scooter = 35mph (Look it up!!)

    Do you have Google? Or access to a computer? A 50cc gas motor produces 2 – 4 hp. This is common knowledge, easily verified. The eBike is limited to 1 hp. You can build faster electric bikes and put pedals on them, but then they become mopeds, and we can agree they need to be treated as such.

    Weight matters too. The eBike is 1/4 the weight of the scooters. These are completely different classes of vehicle.
    Now if you still don’t like eBikes fair enough – free country – but using false facts for an argument is no argument at all.

    As a matter of interest eBikes (so long as they have less than 750 Watts, have usable pedals, and a top speed of less than 20mph are specifically excluded from the requirement to be registered as motor vehicles as per Federal Law of Dec 4 2002. This law supersedes local and state law. This is why the Police don’t arrest eBike riders – though commercial use without registration is banned).

    Please…look things up before you post nonsense.

  • Your ability to Google the theoretical upper limit of various types of scooters is most impressive. Well done. Perhaps you can do state capitals next.

    What you have written does not change the reports about real-world operation of these vehicles that were given to me by actual users in response to my question “how fast does this thing go?”

    Notwithstanding the differences in weight and in horsepower between a 50cc scooter and an e-bike, their typical speeds are similar. This is the only thing that is important.

  • Edward Busk

    Ok, so just keep ignoring facts. You can insult me if you wish but that doesn’t change the facts. You can Google reviews of Scooters too if you don’t believe the manufacturers.

    I’ve ridden scooters. They go 30 to 40.
    I’ve ridden eBikes. Class 1s are limited to 20.

    This also makes sense given their respective differences in horsepower. Wind resistance increases with speed. 3 to 4hp moves you at 35 to 40. 1 hp moves you at 20 or so.

    So…is 20 similar to 30 to 40? That appears to be the basis of your argument. You may just as well say cars and people have similar speeds; that’s also nonsense.

    So here is a video of a Vespa 50cc, where you can see the Speedometer. Perhaps that might help you understand where you are mistaken?

  • Edward Busk

    Well said.

    Bizarre inability to accept reality from Ferdinand. I wonder if he’s a Russian troll?

  • Marty

    Actually, he is a time-traveling Soviet troll from 1940.

  • If you make it 1923 or so, then I’ll take it.

  • An e-bike always exceeds the prevailing speed of the mass of regular bikes. E-bikes can do 25 when the rest of the bike traffic is doing 15; and they can do 20 when the rest of the bikes are barely hitting 10, such as on an uphill climb (for example, on one of the bridges). This is not an exaggeration; it is what I see every day as a daily rider.


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