The Chainlink

E-Bikes and E-Scooter Rentals Won’t Be Allowed in N.Y. Anytime Soon

Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed a bill that would have legalized both types of transport, angering supporters of the measure.

Electric-scooter rentals will not be coming to New York and the electric bicycles favored by New York City delivery workers will remain illegal after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Thursday vetoed a bill that would have legalized both types of battery-powered transport.

The veto was a blow to several constituencies: scooter companies that operate in dozens of cities in the United States and abroad and see New York as a lucrative, untapped market; delivery workers who rely on an illegal form of transportation to earn a living; and those pressing for ways to ease congestion on New York City’s traffic-choked streets.

In rejecting the legislation, Mr. Cuomo cited safety measures he said that he had sought in his proposed 2019 budget but that had been “inexplicably omitted” from the bill that cleared both houses of the State Legislature by overwhelming margins.

“Failure to include these basic measures renders this legislation fatally flawed,” the governor said in his veto message. He specifically referred to the lack of a requirement that riders of the battery-powered conveyances wear helmets as one of his main objections.

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It's still legal to get around both the city and state-wide on two wheels, so long as you wear a helmet and burn gas through a piston-driven engine  It seems the veto came because the safety provisions including the helmet requirements were missing from the bill.

This sets up an interesting legislative gambit for people who are pro or con the e-scooter or e-bike when it comes to the legislative environment, or, for people who are pro or anti-helmet requirement.  Nationally as this sort of thing is considered state-by-state, if someone doesn't like e-scooters or wants to keep e-bikes out of bike lanes, this could be a good tactic.  Likewise, if someone in NY would rather more people were in cars and on motorcycles and was keeping the gas stations in business, they got their way by having the helmet requirement striped out of the bill.  Illinois is different with no such helmet requirement (yet). 

As of last week, 114 pedestrians have been killed by cars in NYC this year. 6 pedestrians were killed in a 72 hour stretch just last week.

If NYC was serious about safety, they would be immediately banning cars from large sections of their city.

But please... go on about the dangers of riding e-bikes and e-scooters without helmets. 

Well said. Thank you.

This was actually a state-wide the governor vetoed (hoping for more to be done related to safety) rather than only an NYC ordinance.  Separately, NYC has a number of matters to address, while while the broader state (as other states are toiling with as well) is attempting to draft some uniform standards state-wide.  Moreover, one safety matter being a greater or lesser risk relative to another doesn't mean the lesser risk shouldn't be addressed.  Same with cancer versus heart disease.  It wouldn't be wise to suggest folks should disregard one disease because more people die of another. (this is in the context of Phil's remark re. helmets, it isn't ok to disregard the matters of helmets even though there are other safety issues at hand as well)  I don't imagine Governor Cuomo disregards pedestrian deaths, but it was e-bikes and e-scooters at the heart of the bill sent to him.

Helmet use and mandatory helmet laws are two different things. 

Do I think it's a good idea to always wear a helmet when riding a bike or scooter? Yes.
Do I think it's a good idea to criminalize the act of riding a bike or scooter without a helmet? No.

Do I think helmet laws will make cycling and e-scooting safer, especially in cities like NYC or Chicago? Absolutely not. 

"While requiring helmets may seem like an intuitive way to protect riders, the evidence doesn’t bear this out. Experience has shown that while bike helmets can be protective, bike helmet laws are not."

"The likelihood that a given person walking or bicycling will be struck by a motorist varies inversely with the amount of walking or bicycling."

  • Mandatory helmet laws actively discourage people from riding bikes (or e-scooters).
  • Mandatory helmet laws will cause massive drops in use of bike-share systems like Divvy, which puts the future of these systems at-risk.
  • Mandatory helmet law enforcement will be unequally applied, and used by police to stop and harass minorities.

If cities (or states, or the federal government) want to take serious actions to make cycling safer, they would start requiring robust bike infrastructure on all streets, fully fund and promote bike share systems (including e-bikes and e-scooters), and ban cars from dense urban areas where they cause the most carnage. Our streets are increasingly dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians (and e-scooter riders) because of cars. Helmets provide very little protection from motor vehicle impacts.  

Mandatory bike helmet laws are not a serious attempt to make cycling safer. 

"If you want to make cycling safer, start with good infrastructure: build segregated cyclepaths. I am against the false idea of security that helmets offer. They may have some protective value, but not as much as people tend to think. And why all this focus on protecting the head?’’ he adds jokingly. “If you want to be really safe, you should also consider elbow, knee and back protection. And why all this emphasis on the need to wear helmets on bikes? The majority of head injuries occur in cars, but motorist wouldn’t dream of wearing a helmet!”

Well said.  Thank you for this post and for providing the information.

Does the ATA have a position on this legal requirement?

Indeed, mandatory helmet laws discourage cycling without a helmet. That's the whole point - to discourage the activity without the safety measure in place.  

Mandatory car seat laws discourage parents from driving their small child around a car without a booster seat. Again, the entire point.  Mandatory lifejacket laws in boats discourage people from boating without life jackets on board.  

So, what are people to do? Get a booster seat, get a life jacket, get a helmet if we want to do these activities.  Otherwise, don't.  Don't ride a Divvy without a helmet.  As mentioned elsewhere, folks like dueling studies on helmet efficacy. Here's an important summary of a study of dozens of such studies:

Our cities are better with more people riding bikes and less cars. In my opinion, I'd rather people cycling without helmets than drive cars. I also believe the more people on bikes and less people in cars, the safer our cities will be. 

It's interesting that you bring up life jackets, but stop short of suggesting we need laws mandating that people wear life jackets while onboard boats. What about requiring drivers and passengers to wear helmets in cars? Parachutes for plane passengers? Seat belts on buses? 

Why is there such a focus on bike helmets when it comes to improving safety? 

Good questions Phil, with answers here: 

It is unusual for a boat to sink instantly, and so it's been observed that people have time to done the life jacket in an emergency. In some municipalities, a jet ski rider or wave runner (sort of what what a bike is to boat) wearing the life jacket is required.  Kids have to wear them because they have more trouble putting it on themselves in an emergency. 

Busses, because they're already so heavy and are generally so slow, do relatively "well" in a collision relative to other vehicles, so the cost/benefit works out better applied to other safety systems. (busses are a far safer form of transit per mile than cars, and even safer per mile than bikes)   

Weight (keeping it low) is a major factor in planes, and per mile, commercial air travel is already way safer than cycling and driving per mile, although for smaller aircraft, Cirrus has actually piloted a built-in parachute model.

Helmets in cars are in fact a good idea (auto racers usually wear them) although the "virtual" helmet (the airbag) has been successfully designed to accomplish essentially the same thing for head protection, and the declining death per mile rate for automobiles demonstrates that this and related tactics are having that effect.

To the last question, why the emphasis on bike helmets, it's in part we're a cycling site, and, their effects are profound, perhaps as much as seatbelts were in cars before the airbag. Additional/related info (the dueling helmet studies theme)

Ebikes benefit people with a physical disability impacting mobility, elderly needing pedal assist, parents riding their kids to school & grocery shopping. NYC is on the wrong side of this issue. They have a deadly car situation and this is what they focus on?

No question about powered vehicles enabling elderly and disabled as well.  (It's tough for my mom to safely ride a bike.)  The powered issue was raised over the summer here in Chicago, and we'll probably see it revisited again in 2020. 

I get where Phil is coming from re: helmet laws. New York has a tendency to victim blame with cyclists. This will only make the situation worse.

Sharing an article about helmets here:

I can understand an under 18 helmet law but adults shouldn’t be mandated to wear helmets. It also ignores the real reason cyclists are in danger - reckless and/or distracted drivers are more of the real issue. The helmet can only do so much. 


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