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Andrew Cuomo

BREAKING: Cuomo Vetoes Overwhelmingly Popular Bill to Legalize E-Bikes

E-bike delivery workers rallying against NYPD enforcement in December 2017. Photo: David Meyer

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Gov. Cuomo has vetoed a bill that would have legalized a type of electric bike popular with much-persecuted delivery workers — a bill that passed both chambers in Albany earlier this year with barely a handful of opponents.

The veto follows months of advocacy urging the governor to sign the bill, which was sponsored by State Senator Jessica Ramos and Assembly Member Nily Rozic on behalf of thousands of delivery workers who are subject to frequent crackdowns by the NYPD because the throttle-controlled bikes they prefer are technically illegal under state law.

In a statement, Cuomo said legislators "inexplicably omitted several of the safety measures" included in his budget proposal for legalized e-bikes and scooters, such as mandatory helmets, lower speed limits and a law against using the vehicles if a rider was impaired by drugs or alcohol. Cuomo called throttle e-bikes "indistinguishable" from mopeds, and also brought up the death of 16-year-old Nelson Miranda Gomez, who was riding a Lime scooter when he was struck and killed by truck driver in Elizabeth, N.J. as proof that scooters are not safe.

Cuomo also wrote that "a recent study published in the American Journal of Otolaryngology concluded that head injuries have tripled in the past 10 years due to the use of these motorized vehicles, and of these injuries, two-thirds of the victims were not wearing helmets." But Cuomo declined to point out that the study only looked at the use of e-scooters.

In her own statement, Ramos vowed that the coalition made up of the Biking Public Project, Make the Road New York, the Legal Aid Society, Transportation Alternatives, and delivery workers would fight to pass the same bill next year and "every year after until we finally get the justice these delivery workers deserve."

"Our state has failed to help tens of thousands of New Yorkers who desperately need relief from the punitive measures taken against them every day for merely doing their jobs. New York criminalizes delivery workers who are merely trying to make an honest living and slaps them with thousands of dollars in fines, effectively ruining their ability to support themselves and their families," Ramos said.

Electric bikes whose power are controlled by pedals — such as electric Citi Bikes or bikes in the mayor's pilot cargo delivery program — have been legalized by city fiat, but not so the bikes operated by delivery workers (even those who deliver to 1 Police Plaza!).

The Ramos-Rozic bill passed in June with veto-proof majorities in the Senate (56-6) and the Assembly (137-4). But it was not formally "sent" to the governor until Tuesday because it was unclear if he would sign it. And with the legislature out of session until January, lawmakers would have to call a special session to over-ride the veto, an unlikely scenario.

As it is now, the legislature will have to re-pass an altered bill (or the same bill) and send it back to the governor.

Rozic released a statement in which she said she would continue to seek a path forward to help bike delivery workers.

Transportation Alternatives' Executive Director Danny Harris also expressed disappointment with Cuomo's veto, saying that the governor missed an opportunity for the state to embrace environmentally-friendly transportation and to help low-wage delivery workers.

"Governor Cuomo, a supposed champion for immigrants and the working poor, has failed to protect 40,000 low-wage, mostly immigrant workers in New York," Harris said. "In vetoing this legislation, Governor Cuomo has refused to deliver justice for working cyclists who have been targeted and harassed for using e-bikes to do their jobs."

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