E-bike riders who zoom around Bushwick and everywhere else are getting a little legal break.
On Tuesday, Mayor de Blasio and Department of Transportation officials announced a new rule that pedal-assist bikes, which get an electric boost once you start pedaling, are permitted for use; but e-bikes with a throttle and which are capable of going faster than 20mph still cannot be legally operated on city streets.
Immediately following de Blasio’s crackdown on e-bikes last October, which increased the fining of e-bike riders and businesses whose employees use them, a group of advocates and elected officials, including Bushwick’s Council Member Raphael Espinal, denounced the action. They called for more leniency in e-bike enforcement, stating that the bikes have environmental benefits and are used by low-wage, immigrant delivery workers who are already vulnerable.
“I am glad the Mayor has heard our concerns and is taking this positive step forward,” said Espinal, who is Chair of the Committee on Consumer Affairs and Business Licensing. “This is a big win for the e-bike community, especially delivery workers, who rely on e-bikes to make a living.”
Although throttle e-bikes aren’t currently legal, they can be easily converted to pedal-assist to conform with the new rule. Espinal and fellow advocates want the city to explore options to support conversions for these e-bikes, including a potential fund to help businesses and riders comply with regulations. Advocates also say that there should be a better way of identifying e-bikes that have been converted from throttle to avoid stopping those riders unjustly.
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Cover image courtesy of Oleksii Khodakivskiy