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Electric bikes and scooters will stay illegal in New York thanks to Governor Cuomo

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has vetoed a bill that would have made electric scooters and bikes legal in the state, citing the lack of a mandatory helmet requirement and other safety concerns. The veto means e-bikes and e-scooters will continue to remain technically illegal across the state, and will further delay any adoption of popular (if polarizing) shared mobility services like Lime or Bird.

The bill to legalize e-bikes and e-scooters was passed in June with overwhelming support, clearing the state Senate by a 56-6 margin and the state Assembly by a 137-4 margin. But state lawmakers reportedly waited to send the bill to Cuomo until this week out of concern that he would try to stand in the way of the proposal. Cuomo has voiced support for legalizing e-bikes and e-scooters in the past, but reportedly soured on the bill after he was criticized by one of its co-sponsors earlier this year.

While the bill would have broadly legalized both modes of transportation across the state, it was also designed to give cities control over e-bike and e-scooter sharing services. Cities would have been allowed to use permits as a tool to control the influx of these sharing companies, which would help prevent them from being inundated like some other cities around the world. It also would have given these local governments leverage to help negotiate their own regulations around shared e-scooters and e-bikes.

Crucially, the bill would have helped take pressure off food delivery workers in New York City, many of whom use e-bikes to get around despite technically being illegal. Instead, those workers will continue to be subjected to $500 fines, confiscations, and occasional NYPD enforcement sweeps that at best feel like dog-and-pony shows and at worst unfairly target these workers.

Nily Rozic, a New York State Assemblywoman from Queens, and one of the bill’s co-sponsors, said in a statement that Cuomo’s veto represents a “missed opportunity” to “deliver economic justice for thousands of delivery workers across New York City, and bring safe, viable options to transit deserts across the state.”

Phil Jones, the senior government relations director at Lime, called the news “disappointing” in a statement, but said he’s “hopeful that the administration will work swiftly with legislative leaders to improve mobility for all New Yorkers early in the New Year.”

“Governor Cuomo has been a strong advocate for innovative and sustainable mobility options, and in the upcoming session, he should make New York a national leader for alternative transportation,” Jones said.

“Cities around the world are embracing e-scooters as an environmentally-friendly, inexpensive way to get around, especially in transit deserts. New Yorkers are ready,” a spokesperson for Bird said in an email. “We are encouraged with the overwhelming support we received from the legislature and from the environmental community. We look forward to bringing micro-mobility choices to New Yorkers next year.”

Update December 26th, 5:38PM ET: Added comment from Bird.

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