Can city and state ordinances trump federal law?

calvin

Active Member
A new law in NYC that was supposed to be enforceable November 11, permits cops to impound ebikes operated on city streets. From what I have been reading:
15 U.S.C. § 2085 : US Code - Section 2085: Low-speed electric bicycles...http://codes.lp.findlaw.com/uscode/15/47/2085, says that "this section shall supercede any State law or requirement with respect to low speed electric bicycles to the extent that such State law or requirement is more stringent than the Federal law or...."

Unlike some other states, New York State has not changed theirs laws to comply with Federal law, and people have been ticketed and now NYC has doubled the fine to $1000.00. Article: http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2013/02/hell-on-wheels-can-e-bikes-ever-go-legal.html
How can they get away with doing this?

A secondary question is: does the ebike law apply to scooters also? Are scooters ebikes? Should large framed/ bodied e-scooters be allowed on pedestrian/ bike paths? See: ( http://www.amazon.com/X-Treme-Scoot...=action-sports&ie=UTF8&qid=1393476825&sr=1-66 ) Is this thing really a e-scooter or rather a heavy low powered e-motorcycle? Even if a e-scooter stays within the 20mph speed limit, I can see an backlash occurring. What do you think?
 
Last edited:

Court

Administrator
Staff member
Interesting points calvin, great sourcing here. I'm not a legal professional or very familiar with the matter but I had heard about these laws and also that many people ignore them and they aren't ticketed often. Maybe someone from NY or with legal background can comment?
 

Dave

Active Member
Legislation has been proposed to bring NY State's laws concerning ebikes in line with the Federal law. It appears at some point it will make it through both branches of the legislature. On a practical level, I have no concerns about police stopping me because, my bike is not easily identified as an electric bike, and most police in my small town probably wouldn't care anyway. I doubt if asked, they would even know they are illegal to ride. As far a NYC goes, that's a planet unto itself, and seems to operate independently of the rest of the State. Even if the State got its' act together, NYC would have its' own set of laws.
 

Vern

Active Member
I really don't understand what the problem legislator have against e-bikes in New York. It is probably a case of a few bad apples, in the big apple haha, spoiling the opinion of e-bikes and e-bike riders for everyone. I can sort of understand people having a problem against e-bike riders who don't follow traffic laws in the congested city areas. So then just ticket those people. The police are probably pissed off that they can't catch them. However, contrary to some beliefs, New York is not all big city. New York has many rural and suburban areas and I really can't understand the logic of outlawing e-bikes in those areas! I have an uncle who will be visiting from New York in a few weeks. He is a retired police officer. I will have to get his thoughts.
 

Court

Administrator
Staff member
That would be great Vern! Would love the perspective of an actual officer of the law, maybe you can mention it in advance so he can ask around to some of his friends if the law and the technology is new to him?
 

Brian Adelstein

New Member
Good evening everyone. I am an attorney. I'm licensed in Florida, not New York, but this is a Constitutional Law question..a question of federal law, not state law, so I should be able to respond pretty accurately to the question at hand.

Under the Supremacy Clause of Article VI Clause II of the Constitution, Federal Law trumps State/local law, but both laws must be addressing the exact same point for federal law to win.

Here, it does not appear that the federal law cited and the state law are on the exact same point. The state law addresses the right to use an electric bike in public. The federal law cited seems to merely identify what an electric bike is, not whether or not it can be used in public. Furthermore, the cross referenced statute, 16 CFR PART 1512, merely appears to identify requirements for bicycles. Therefore, the federal law identified does not trump the state law.

As a general side note to give context, issues of transportation have generally been reserved to the states as a matter for their police power. Only in few situations have such statutes been struck down by the Court. Arguably the Court in Heart of Atlanta Motel Inc. v. United States, 379 U.S. 241 (1964) struck down such a law. In that case, the Court found that this Motel could not refuse to rent rooms to black patrons because such a prohibition would impermissibly impact interstate commerce, forcing certain people to bypass entire neighborhoods just to find a room to rent for a night. As people have other transportation options in New York besides e-bikes, it would not seem that the Court would find a compelling justification to abrogate the states' police power. As such, it appears likely, in my opinion, that there are no grounds under federal law to strike down this law.

While it might be possible for another justification to exist under New York law to strike down this law, my hunch is that no such justification would likely be found. A New York-barred lawyer would have to be consulted for an opinion on the State law issue for a definitive final answer.
 
Last edited:

calvin

Active Member
Thanks Brian for the clarification. So guys it appears that our riding ebikes is a privilege (like driving cars) which can be modified or banned by state law. I can imagine there are some "large commercial entities" out there that may lobby against our new found recreational hobby or commuting alternative.
 

Court

Administrator
Staff member
I chatted with Brian a bit more on this topic and it sounds like understanding why this block was put into place in New York can help us to uncover what could be done to prevent it from expanding. We may also discover a happy medium in types of ebikes allowed or lobby for the privilege based on public best interest.
 

Dave

Active Member
This article sheds some light on why ebikes are currently illegal in NY State. It also talks about why NYC has made things so tough on ebikers. I suspect the proposed bills to make ebikes legal have are being held up by the interests in the Big Apple.
 

George S.

Well-Known Member
A new law in NYC that was supposed to be enforceable November 11, permits cops to impound ebikes operated on city streets. From what I have been reading:
15 U.S.C. § 2085 : US Code - Section 2085: Low-speed electric bicycles...http://codes.lp.findlaw.com/uscode/15/47/2085, says that "this section shall supercede any State law or requirement with respect to low speed electric bicycles to the extent that such State law or requirement is more stringent than the Federal law or...."

Unlike some other states, New York State has not changed theirs laws to comply with Federal law, and people have been ticketed and now NYC has doubled the fine to $1000.00. Article: http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2013/02/hell-on-wheels-can-e-bikes-ever-go-legal.html
How can they get away with doing this?

A secondary question is: does the ebike law apply to scooters also? Are scooters ebikes? Should large framed/ bodied e-scooters be allowed on pedestrian/ bike paths? See: ( http://www.amazon.com/X-Treme-Scoot...=action-sports&ie=UTF8&qid=1393476825&sr=1-66 ) Is this thing really a e-scooter or rather a heavy low powered e-motorcycle? Even if a e-scooter stays within the 20mph speed limit, I can see an backlash occurring. What do you think?

Calvin,

This is an interesting video:


The guy who gets pulled over has a fairly extreme view of authority, but I can't find anything wrong in what he is doing. Seven police vehicles for an electric scooter? The whole thing is unreal. Incidents like these do not lend themselves to good lawmaking.

The way the legal system is structured, you won't know what the laws mean, and there are so many laws, how do you sort it out? The last bike path I rode on said "No Motorized Vehicles". OK, so Federal law say it's a bike, even if it's an ebike. But the sign does not say "Bikes Only".

George
 

Dave

Active Member
Best to keep the ebike looking as much like a regular bicycle as possible. Looking like a scooter or motorcycle draws too much attention from unwanted visitors.

Carbono.jpg trek.png Trek
Neo Carbon
 
Last edited:

Court

Administrator
Staff member
Great article Dave! I liked this part "for now, e-bikers in New York may just want to keep a copy of the federal law with them, HR 727, which specifies that when it comes to e-bikes, the federal laws supersede all state and local regulations. So, if you do get a ticket for riding that e-bike, your best hope may really be to make a federal case out of it."

It was actually full of interesting points about the restriction being mainly focused on delivery people (due to reckless riding) and called out two new measures that, if passed, would go easier on electric bike riders. Worth noting that this article was posted on June 17, 2013 and they thought something could be passed by end of year... Wonder what the status is.

Besides tightening the definition of e-bikes, the new rules very clearly target one class of e-bike riders: commercial users, who consist primarily of food delivery bikers. However, the rest of the e-bike community is being caught in the crossfire.

In New York City pedestrians, automobiles, trucks, taxis, and bicycles all compete for overcrowded strips of asphalt. Speed demon bicycle messengers and food delivery bikers had already been terrorizing the populous. Then e-bikes came along. And now, the restaurant delivery folks took to the streets on fleets of cheap e-bikes, sometimes ignoring red lights, riding the wrong way down one way streets, and even riding on sidewalks. They were stealthy so you couldn't hear them coming. They were startling pedestrians, and even upsetting normally thick-skinned taxi drivers. City Hall heard the uproar and responded. The new ordinances give authorities the ability to fine riders and impound e-bikes. They can also be forcibly removed from businesses that have them on the premises.

The new city rules specify that bikes that can be motor propelled without pedaling are banned. In other words, if you're riding a pedelec (that's an electric bike that requires human pedaling to activate its motor) you're pretty safe. But if your e-bike can be throttle driven without pedaling, you are running afoul of the new rules. Since the new regulations specifically target commercial users of e-bikes, Cebular says the rules won't hurt his business, but they are certainly making the e-bike decision confusing for consumers.

We are going backwards with these rules, do you want an extra car on the road instead of an electric bike, just because of these delivery guys? Some critics worry that the new rules will discourage bike commuters, or Baby Boomers and seniors who want to use e-bikes to stay in shape. One critic of the measures said it's a little like trying to deal with drunk driving by banning cars from the road.

There are currently two measures trying to make their way through the state legislature that would legalize e-bikes, basically putting into the state statutes the same language that's in federal law, allowing e-bikes that have motors no bigger than 750 watts and capable of going no more than 20 mph on flat ground.
 

Dave

Active Member
There are currently two measures trying to make their way through the state legislature that would legalize e-bikes, basically putting into the state statutes the same language that's in federal law, allowing e-bikes that have motors no bigger than 750 watts and capable of going no more than 20 mph on flat ground.

I believe both measures passed one branch of the NY State legistaure, and got stalled in the Senate. That's been the case right along. I can't help but think NYC lobbying efforts has something to do with the outcome. The Mayor carries some juice with Albany, and many laws in New York are NYC driven. I'm just glad I live in a rural area where no one really cares if my bike has an electric motor.
 

Brian Adelstein

New Member
It couldn't hurt to have that card on your person if you decide to take the risk. You might fool a cop to letting you off, and if he doesn't buy it you *might* be able get off with a warning by pleading that you misunderstood the law and that you are very sorry and will keep it home from now on. Either way I stand by my previous assessment. Federal law does not trump state law in this area for the reasons I indicated in my post above...hopefully the people will influence the-powers-that-be to get the law changed.
 

bikerjohn

Well-Known Member
Well that video was interesting. I note that the traffic stop was in Arizona NOT New York. I believe that a typical "commuter style" e bike would not draw attention from law enforcement in most areas in NYS. Perhaps the throttle control needs to be "strictly pedal assist" in metropolitan areas...
 

Dave

Active Member
Bikerjohn, I think you are right. Most areas of NY aren't going out of their way looking for electric bikes. Moving along without pedaling could raise some eyebrows, best to keep it PAS.
 

calvin

Active Member
Calvin,

This is an interesting video:


The guy who gets pulled over has a fairly extreme view of authority, but I can't find anything wrong in what he is doing. Seven police vehicles for an electric scooter? The whole thing is unreal. Incidents like these do not lend themselves to good lawmaking.

The way the legal system is structured, you won't know what the laws mean, and there are so many laws, how do you sort it out? The last bike path I rode on said "No Motorized Vehicles". OK, so Federal law say it's a bike, even if it's an ebike. But the sign does not say "Bikes Only".

George
If you give the Phoenix Police any static, back up officers will show up, tis a rule here. No back talk allowed... also notice the bike looked like a moped or scooter. Thats a problem, despite what the rider stated, in my book that thing is not a bicycle.
 

James

Well-Known Member
Just a ridiculous use of "force" I'm just a guy from Canada where if the cops actually pulled you over for your weird looking ebike it would be to try it out and have some fun or offer you a ride somewhere!
 

calvin

Active Member
It couldn't hurt to have that card on your person if you decide to take the risk. You might fool a cop to letting you off, and if he doesn't buy it you *might* be able get off with a warning by pleading that you misunderstood the law and that you are very sorry and will keep it home from now on. Either way I stand by my previous assessment. Federal law does not trump state law in this area for the reasons I indicated in my post above...hopefully the people will influence the-powers-that-be to get the law changed.
From my reading of the state statutes, fortunately, here in Arizona, ebikes are considered bicycles, and therefore can be ridden anywhere a standard bike can, trails, bike lanes etc., the only exception being that you need to carry a form of identification. That being said, and with the previous video of the Phoenix Police Department still in mind, there is this article from Chandler Az, where the rider is again upset that the police want to classify his (so called) ebike a moped: http://visforvoltage.org/forum/7703...ify-my-xb-500-moped-instead-motorized-bicycle . Well, again, this moped the XB-500 is not appear to me to be an electric bicycle: As the variety of two or three wheeled electric vehicles expands, are the legal classifications being stretched or being abused by manufacturers? The resulting legal issues will have to be addressed by the notoriously slow to act legislatures and courts.