The short answer: yes. New Yorkers have been waiting eagerly and, after a long battle, electric motorcycles and scooters have finally been legalized in New York City.
An e-scooter is one of the most convenient ways to get around the city streets. In a place like New York, having the access to an electric scooter to get to places is a blessing. You’d be surprised at how much time I’ve saved on my commutes by switching to an e-scooter. Getting stuck in traffic in a car or on public transport, especially on the days when you need to reach your destination on time, is not a fun experience.
Unfortunately, this news came out during the COVID-19 pandemic which was ill-timed because many e-scooter companies were forced to lay off some of their employees just to make ends meet and remain in business. With things opening up everywhere this year and New Yorkers returning to the streets, maybe we can all try to make riding electric scooters and other energy-efficient and environment-friendly vehicles the ‘new normal.’
Although, as of right now, there are some caveats. Check out these regulations and rules on e-bikes before you go electric scooter shopping.
What kind of electric vehicle is actually allowed and what are the regulations?
With the legalization of electric scooters also came a lot of confusion. Since there are several different types of e-scooters available on the market and scooter companies releasing new models regularly, what kind of motorized scooter is actually allowed?
According to the NYC Department of Motor Vehicles, an electric scooter is “any device weighing less than one hundred pounds that:
- has handlebars, a floorboard or a seat that can be stood or sat upon by the operator, and an electric motor,
- can be powered by the electric motor and/or human power, and
- has a max speed of less than twenty miles per hour on a paved level surface when powered solely by the electric motor.
The New York State Department, effective August 2020, has categorized electric scooters and electric bicycles into 3 classes:
Class 1: Electric bike
An electric bicycle with pedal assist is any bicycle that has an electric motor of less than 750 watts, equipped with operable pedals comes under this category. You don’t need a driver’s license or register your e-bike as a limited-use motorcycle or moped. You can ride them on a street or a bike lane at less than 20mph. It is mandatory to wear a helmet for 16-17-year-olds but recommended for all.
Class 2: Electric bike, throttle-assist up to 20mph
Electric bikes that come with throttle and operable pedals come under this category. Just like in the previous class, you don’t need a driver’s license. The maximum speed limit for these e-bikes is 20mph and you can ride them on bike lanes, streets, cycling infrastructure, or any vehicle lanes. It is also mandatory to wear a helmet for 16-17-year-olds but recommended for all.
Class 3: Electric bike, throttle-assist up to 25 mph
E-bikes that have a throttle and can be ridden with or without pedals come under this category. A driver’s license is not required. You can ride an e-bike in this class as long as the speed limits do not exceed 25mph and you are allowed to ride them on bike lanes and other streets. Helmets are mandatory for all by law, so don’t forget to carry that at all times to avoid any run-ins with the New York department of police.
*Class 3 electric bikes are currently only allowed in New York City.
If you’re still confused, check out this flowchart:
Apart from these multiple classes, it’s important to note that you can operate an electric bicycle or electric motorized devices that fall under any of these classeson a highway with a posted speed limit of 30 MPH or less. You are strictly not allowedto ride any electric scooters on a sidewalk except as authorized by local laws.
And don’t forget that municipalities can further regulate the time, place, and manner of operation of electric scooters at any given time. So keep an eye out for any changes in the regulation or laws for your local area.
Who benefits from the legalization of electric scooters?
Riders and New Yorkers who use a personal vehicle for commuting anywhere will have the most to gain. That includes you if you want to make a quick stop at the bodega around the corner, the grocery store, or the hospital. A lightweight scooter with a wheel system built for urban landscapes like the fluid Horizon, the Inokim Light 2, or the fluid Mosquito is perfect for daily use in a crowded city like NYC.
The legalization of electric scooters in New York is also fantastic news for delivery workers whose main mode of transport is an e-bike or electric scooter. They often have to navigate unforgiving traffic and the occasional annoying pedestrian, mainly at a peak hour, to get products to customers on time.
What are the illegal types of motorcycles according to the state of new york?
While it’s a step forward in the right direction for many bikes and e-scooters, not everything that runs using motors is allowed, there are still plenty that is illegal.
You will be arrested if you are caught driving any of these:
- Minibike – a small, two-wheeled, motorized device that is used off-road. A mini-bike isn’t categorized as a moped, a motorcycle, or an ATV (all-terrain vehicle).
- Off-road Motorcycle (Dirt Bikes) – a dirt bike/motorcycle built for off-roading or in off-road contests. Usually, you have to register these vehicles as ATVs.
- Go-Kart – are small, four-wheeled, motorized vehicles produced for off-road use. These cannot be registered as motor cars or ATVs because they don’t have the same parts like a motor or engine.
- Golf Cart (also called golf cars or neighborhood electric vehicles) – are small, four-wheeled, motorized vehicles usually used on golf courses. You can’t register a golf cart as an ATV either.
- KEI-Class Vehicles – A class of lightweight vehicles, originally manufactured for the Japanese domestic market. A KEI-Class vehicle cannot be registered or titled in New York State.
According to the state of New York DMV, you’re not allowed to operate or register any of these on any streets with speed limits, highways, a parking lot, or any other area in the state of New York that allows public motor vehicle traffic.
There’s still a long way to go for e-bikes and e-scooters — but at Scootermap, we’re glad there’s some progress being made.
Yes, the public transportation system in NYC is great, but if your destination is far from the subway or bus stops or in alleys that even Google Maps can’t locate — having an e-scooter will come in handy.
Further legalization of other faster and stronger e-bikes, scooters with electric assist, and electric vehicles in NYC depends on the acts and any local law passed in the government. Here’s hoping New Yorkers set the precedent for other cities!