NYC Electric Bike Law

Chris Nolte

Well-Known Member
As some of you may have heard, we are looking to move our shop to Brooklyn. As such we are looking at getting real clear on the laws in NYC concerning electric bikes. Below I have made a list of some resources along with my understanding of the law thus far.

I hope to develop a website to help clarify this stuff, but I figured putting up a discussion here first would be helpful.

update 11/19/2016: Court and I did a quick video together discussing the state of things. Check it out below.

Current Related Laws

NYC Laws

Local Law 40
A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to the enforcement of motor scooter provisions.

Law:
Section 1. Subdivisions a and d of section 19-176.2 of the administrative code of the city of New York, as added by local law number 51 for the year 2004, are amended to read as follows:
a. For purposes of this section, the term "motorized scooter" shall mean any wheeled device that has handlebars that is designed to be stood or sat upon by the operator, is powered by an electric motor or by a gasoline motor that is capable of propelling the device without human power and is not capable of being registered with the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. For the purposes of this section, the term motorized scooter shall not include wheelchairs or other mobility aids designed for use by disabled persons[, electric powered devices not capable of exceeding fifteen miles per hour or "electric personal assistive mobility devices" defined as self-balancing, two non-tandem wheeled devices designed to transport one person by means of an electric propulsion system].
d. Any motorized scooter that has been used or is being used in violation of the provisions of this section may be impounded and shall not be released until any and all removal charges and storage fees and the applicable fines and civil penalties have been paid or a bond has been posted in an amount satisfactory to the [police] commissioner of the agency that impounded such vehicle.
§ 2. This local law shall take effect one hundred eighty days after it shall have become law, except that the commissioners of the police department and the department of parks and recreation shall take all actions necessary, including the promulgation of rules, to implement this local law on or before the date upon which it shall take effect.

My take: This law makes electric bikes with throttles illegal, but leaves the option to use pedal assisted bikes, as highlighted in bold above.

Link to Law:
http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/Leg...092&GUID=3138BFA9-4D11-4F3B-A06B-9FB3A04511CA

Local law 41
A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to the prohibition of motor scooter use by businesses.

Law:

Be it enacted by the Council as follows:
Section 1. Section 10-157 of the administrative code of the city of New York is amended to add a new subdivision k to read as follows:
k. A business using a bicycle for commercial purposes shall not possess any motorized scooter and shall not permit any employee of such business to operate such a motorized scooter on behalf of such business. A business using a bicycle for commercial purposes shall be liable for any violation of section 19-176.2(b) of this code committed by an employee of such business while such employee is operating a motorized scooter on behalf of such business. For purposes of this section, "motorized scooter" shall be as defined in section 19-176.2 of this code.
§ 2. This local law shall take effect one hundred eighty days after it shall have become law, except that the commissioners of the department of transportation and the police department shall take all actions necessary, including the promulgation of rules, to implement this local law on or before the date upon which it shall take effect.


My take: This law further expands on local law 40 to further the consequences of utilizing a electric bicycle defined as unacceptable in law 40. In other words, businesses are not allowed to use throttle powered bikes, but they may use pedal-assisted bikes as they are not defined as motor scooters by the law.

Link to Law:
http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/Leg...-0539-4F5A-AD30-16EAD7F7A95F&Options=&Search=

NYS Laws

Federal Electric Bike Law:

HR 727

To amend the Consumer Product Safety Act to provide that low-speed electric bicycles are consumer products subject to such Act.

Law:

SECTION 1. CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY ACT.

The Consumer Product Safety Act (15 U.S.C. 2051 et seq.) is amended by adding at the end the following:

low-speed electric bicycles

Sec. 38. (a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, low-speed electric bicycles are consumer products within the meaning of section 3(a)(1) and shall be subject to the Commission regulations published at section 1500.18(a)(12) and part 1512 of title 16, Code of Federal Regulations.

(b) For the purpose of this section, the term `low-speed electric bicycle' means a two- or three-wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts (1 h.p.), whose maximum speed on a paved level surface, when powered solely by such a motor while ridden by an operator who weighs 170 pounds, is less than 20 mph.

(c) To further protect the safety of consumers who ride low-speed electric bicycles, the Commission may promulgate new or amended requirements applicable to such vehicles as necessary and appropriate.

(d) This section shall supersede 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 requirements referred to in subsection (a).

SEC. 2. MOTOR VEHICLE SAFETY STANDARDS.

For purposes of motor vehicle safety standards issued and enforced pursuant to chapter 301 of title 49, United States Code, a low-speed electric bicycle (as defined in section 38(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act) shall not be considered a motor vehicle as defined by section 30102(6) of title 49, United States Code.

My take: This law makes it easy for states that are dragging their feet on enacting new legislation like NY. electric bikes are considered legal across the US, provided they have operational pedals and the throttle doesn't propel you past 20mph.

Link to Law:
https://www.congress.gov/bill/107th-congress/house-bill/727/text

NY Legislation:

S390A-2013

This bill clarifies the vehicle and traffic law to define electric assisted bicycles; establish that electric assisted bicycles, as defined, are bicycles, not motor vehicles; and establish safety and operational criteria for their use.

Bill:
Section 1 of the bill acids a new Section 102-c to the vehicle and traffic law, defining electric assisted bicycles as a bicycle with two or three wheels which has a saddle and fully operative pedals for human propulsion, and also has an electric motor. However, the electric motor should have a power output of no more than seven hundred fifty watts, and should be incapable of propelling the device at a speed of twenty miles per hour or more on level ground. The electric motor should also be incapable of further increasing the speed of the device when human power is used to propel the device at or more than twenty miles per hour.

Section 2 adds an exception in section 125 of the vehicle and traffic law to the statutory definition of motor vehicle for electric assisted bicycles.

Section 3 adds a new section 1238-a to the vehicle and traffic law, making the rules, regulations and provisions of the vehicle and traffic law applicable to bicycles applicable to electric assisted bicycles; makes the federal equipment and manufacturing requirements for bicycles or motor driven cycles applicable to electric assisted bicycles; and adds the following operational and safety requirements for electric assisted bicycles: electric motor disengagement criteria; all operators and passengers are required to wear bicycle helmets; and no-one under the age of 16 may operate or as a passenger on an electric assisted bicycle and establishes the civil fine and enforcement procedures for failure to wear a helmet.

Section 4 is the effective date.

JUSTIFICATION:

Defining, and establishing operational criteria for electric assisted bicycles will clarify for authorities that these vehicles are more akin to bicycles than motorcycles. This will assist in interpreting the application of the appropriate vehicle and traffic laws to operators and passengers of these vehicles.


Link to Bill:

http://open.nysenate.gov/legislation/bill/S390A-2013

My Take: The above bill spent two years as a bill and will now need to be re-introduced in order for it to have the potential to become a law. Most likely it will get re-introduced, but some are hoping that some requirements will be removed, including the passenger and helmet provisions. There are many parties involved in lobbying for a new bill and I will post info about them below.

Advocates in the Industry (we need to support them, as they are supporting us):
People for Bikes
Transportation Alternatives
New York Bike Coalition
Bike New York
SRAM Cycling Fund
League of American Cyclists


I will add more info here as I have time, but I figured this is a good place to start. Feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns or if there is anyway I can be of assistance. We finally have the support of most of the industry and leading bike advocacy groups, so this next legislative session (Jan-Jun 2015) looks very promising.

I'm sure I'm probably missing some stuff, so please let me know and I will add it.
 
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Court

Administrator
Staff member
Thanks for organizing, summarizing and referencing all of this Chris. It was eye opening to visit Albany and actually meet with Senators earlier this year and I'm hoping that New York will continue to consider electric bicycles and adapt laws to make them more usable in the state and large cities like New York.
 

Bud

Member
Thanks for that great survey of the applicable law. I have been hesitant to head out on a tour of NYC being uncertain about how my E3 Dash would be viewed. So the question now is whether there is any way to disable the throttle through a manual or software fix. Truth be told, I rarely twist my wrist.
 

Chris Nolte

Well-Known Member
Thanks for that great survey of the applicable law. I have been hesitant to head out on a tour of NYC being uncertain about how my E3 Dash would be viewed. So the question now is whether there is any way to disable the throttle through a manual or software fix. Truth be told, I rarely twist my wrist.
I'm pretty sure you can just unplug the throttle and swap it out for a full size grip. Here's a linke below on how to remove it. I'm pretty sure it will function fine without it.
https://sites.google.com/a/curriete...ical-support/1-component-replacement/throttle
 

Cbones

New Member
Chris,

Unfortunately, what we need is money from the industry to fund a test case. This seems to be a classic conflict of law. The bottom line is the supremacy clause needs to be enforced.

Under the Supremacy Clause, all state laws that conflict or interfere with an act of Congress are invalidated. State judges are mandated by law to uphold the federal laws under the Constitution. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution prohibits states from making laws that "shall abridge the privileges or immunities" of U.S. citizens.

Federal law will trump the state or local law every time unless the local law can be proved that it furthers the goal of the intentions of the federal law. The huge problem is it takes a lot of money to get this local law to be deemed invalid.
 

Zapp

New Member
Actually, Federal law in this case does not appear to trump state or local law. The Federal law in question specifically deals with the sale of e-bikes (what can and cannot be sold within the U.S), not with whether or how they can be used. As a result, it is quite possible to legally buy an e-bike and not be legally able to ride it.

An excellent legal brief on this issue is provided in NITC-RR-564 : http://ppms.otrec.us/media/project_files/NITC-RR-564_Regulations_of_E-Bikes_in_North_America_3.pdf
 

Chris Nolte

Well-Known Member
Thanks Zapp, this is an excellent resource to refer to. I think it's still a bit unclear on whether the Federal Law trumps. Cbones above is actually a NY lawyer familiar with the topic. I think we'll see a new state law before anyone makes a Supreme case of it. We'll have a lot of support starting this session, but I'd love to connect with any interested parties.

Fortunately in the interim there seems to be no legal action I'm aware of taken towards consumers in NY. If anyone knows of a case I'd love to hear of it and I'd might even be willing to help to defend the case.

Are you in NY Zapp?
 

Chris Nolte

Well-Known Member
Thanks for posting J.R. it's great to see the attention to ebikes, but I think the CBS news was a bit misguided and just about stirring things as many news organizations are these days. I think there are some interests in opposition to electric bikes that are getting nervous about the traction we have been getting in Albany. The current bill passed 59-3 in the Senate and all we need is the Assembly, but we could see some trouble as the Mayor issued a memo of opposition based on NYPD's trouble with enforcing the bikes. I guess they are concerned that if they became legal the they would see even more of them on the streets. The reality is probably 90% of the electric bikes on the road in NYC are throttle operated and illegal under the current city law and there has been little enforcement, so the state law shouldn't really impact their current issue. If anything it could help clarify what is legal and what is not.

We have been really heavy in lobbying for ebikes this year on the state level and we are pretty close to getting a bill passed. People for Bikes, the New York Bike Coalition and the BPSA has been really helpful. We're going to hold a public forum on June 5th at my shop in Brooklyn to hopefully bring some clarity and education to the issue. It's are hope that we can gain more support from the City before it goes to a vote in the Assembly. The rest of the state is in support.

If anyone has any influential NYPD contacts I would love to connect with them on this topic.
 

stevenast

Well-Known Member
I think the CBS news was a bit misguided and just about stirring things as many news organizations are these days
Chris, you are so tactful! ;) The "CBS2 Investigates" was almost an all-out attack on e-bikes. The "story" almost classifies as sensationalism, definitely has nothing to do with objective journalism.
__________
"A CBS2 investigation has found..."

"E-bikes being sold openly"

"'I don't like the motorized bikes because I'm afraid of them', one woman said. 'I don't walk well.'"

"..ban on riding is roundly ignored..."

"Now, a sponsor of the 2004 ban has demanded answers... asking why the provision of the city code is going unenforced."
__________
As you say, Chris, the purpose of the story is to stir things up, stimulate viewer interest. But the unfortunate effect is demonizing e-bikes in the minds of many viewers.
 

J.R.

Well-Known Member
Chris, you are so tactful! ;) The "CBS2 Investigates" was almost an all-out attack on e-bikes. The "story" almost classifies as sensationalism, definitely has nothing to do with objective journalism.
__________
"A CBS2 investigation has found..."

"E-bikes being sold openly"

"'I don't like the motorized bikes because I'm afraid of them', one woman said. 'I don't walk well.'"

"..ban on riding is roundly ignored..."

"Now, a sponsor of the 2004 ban has demanded answers... asking why the provision of the city code is going unenforced."
__________
As you say, Chris, the purpose of the story is to stir things up, stimulate viewer interest. But the unfortunate effect is demonizing e-bikes in the minds of many viewers.
It's important for people involved in the political process to know what all sides of an issue are saying so they can plan their response. Chris and Court have been involved in this issue for a long time and know what the opposition are saying, it's folks that are new to the issue that need to read and see and decide for themselves who and what the opposition is.
 

Chris Nolte

Well-Known Member
This has been my main priority lately outside of getting my new store in Brooklyn setup. The legislative session is over June 17th so we have a couple weeks left to push this through. It can still pass without the support of the Mayor, but it could be difficult.
 

J.R.

Well-Known Member
I've been involved in many political battles in the two states I've called home, to protect my freedoms. The main reason I left one state was due to the politics and taxes of that state. There is only one thing more difficult and that is to fight for a freedom that's lost! Chris, I don't envy you, your mayor. I wish you all the luck and success you deserve!
 

Chris Nolte

Well-Known Member
Thanks J.R. if it comes down to it I may have to leave NY, but I don't think it will. Maybe it's the Military in me, but I feel like I've taken this on as a personal mission and I'm gonna see it through. Thanks for the support bud :)
 

Chris Nolte

Well-Known Member
Since the NYS bill didn't pass this year from another series of suspicious events. I have chosen to look at this law in NY again. Frankly the bill from this year didn't really make much sense, but that's not the point of this posting.

Through my research it seems that NYS DMV doesn't have the jurisdiction to have a law against electric bikes, as CSPC claimed the authority under HR 727. I'm no expert in the law, but it seems that since the CSPC defines electric bicycles as bicycles and specifically not a motor vehicle and as a result these bikes seem to be exempt from DMV law. It seems silly that this hasn't been made clearer already, but I am trying to work with the Department of Energy to help clarify this. They originally introduced this bill that was signed into law by George W. Bush in 2002.

I listed the law for HR 727 below for reference (law in blue, my text is in black). I would love to hear some feedback on this if anyone feels they have something helpful to contribute.

HR 727
To amend the Consumer Product Safety Act to provide that low-speed electric bicycles are consumer products subject to such Act.

Law:

SECTION 1. CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY ACT.

The Consumer Product Safety Act (15 U.S.C. 2051 et seq.) is amended by adding at the end the following:

low-speed electric bicycles

Sec. 38. (a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, low-speed electric bicycles are consumer products within the meaning of section 3(a)(1) and shall be subject to the Commission regulations published at section 1500.18(a)(12) and part 1512 of title 16, Code of Federal Regulations.

(b) For the purpose of this section, the term `low-speed electric bicycle' means a two- or three-wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts (1 h.p.), whose maximum speed on a paved level surface, when powered solely by such a motor while ridden by an operator who weighs 170 pounds, is less than 20 mph.

(c) To further protect the safety of consumers who ride low-speed electric bicycles, the Commission may promulgate new or amended requirements applicable to such vehicles as necessary and appropriate.

(d) This section shall supersede 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 requirements referred to in subsection (a).

SEC. 2. MOTOR VEHICLE SAFETY STANDARDS.

For purposes of motor vehicle safety standards issued and enforced pursuant to chapter 301 of title 49, United States Code, a low-speed electric bicycle (as defined in section 38(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act) shall not be considered a motor vehicle as defined by section 30102(6) of title 49, United States Code.


I'm particularly interested in the bolded sections as I feel these clarify all the confusion in NYS. It's not clear if NYC can further regulate electric bikes, I'm picking my battles for now and only offering pedal assist bikes in my Brooklyn shop. For now until I am proven otherwise this is my understanding of all the laws as they relate to NYS and NYC.
 

George S.

Well-Known Member
(d) This section shall supersede any State law or requirement with respect to low-speed electric bicyclesto the extent that such State law or requirement is more stringent than the Federal law or requirements referred to in subsection (a).

It's confusing there has never been a court test of this 'supersede' issue. In Utah, you have to have a driver's license to ride an ebike, legally. So they are partially considered motor vehicles, where you need an operator license.

In California, they have 95% completed their new ebike law, and their emphasis is ebikes that go up to 28 mph. California has never allowed any ebikes on bike paths.

The whole thing is completely messed up. I always thought the industry wanted the CPSC rules, nationally, but now they want the speed pedelec bike. I guess they don't care that much about CPSC?

I wish CPSC was the law of the land, and people could do what they wanted with 20 mph ebikes, up to 750 watts, just treated like bikes. Hasn't happened. Doesn't look so good.

No one ever mentions the federal priority anymore. There could be some kind of test case. I don't know.
 

J.R.

Well-Known Member
(d) This section shall supersede 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 requirements referred to in subsection (a).
Is an outright ban considered more stringent? I wouldn't think so. How can a State be more stringent of something they don't allow to exist? You have to allow something to exist to regulate it.
 

George S.

Well-Known Member


In New York, S.997-Dilan, which would amend the vehicle and traffic law for electric bicycles but not define classes, passed the State Senate, 59-3, on May 19, after a 15-4 vote in the Committee on Transportation, but the identical bill, A.233-Gantt, did not make it to the Assembly floor for a vote in the recently-ended session. It is expected that the bill will be heard in the next 2016 legislative session.

Although A.233-Gantt carried wide ranging support from the New York City Department of Transportation, a majority of Assembly members, national bicycle manufacturers and New York retailers, the bill faced many challenges, including changes in leadership in the Assembly and Senate, a difficult sponsor, and opposition from the City of New York.

(Link Removed - No Longer Exists)
 

J.R.

Well-Known Member
It's very disappointing when a State acts in this manner, not surprising just disappointing. With NYC so steadfast in it's opposition it's going to a rough row to hoe! Money must be talking for now, but if in ten years time ebikes are a really big thing in the U.S. there will be a legal avenue for ebikes in NY. Money will be talking out of the other side of it's mouth then.
 

Chris Nolte

Well-Known Member
My feeling is everyone is misinterpreting the law. I think the intention is different than just protecting the sale of electric bikes. I'm trying to connect with Department of Energy since they introduced the bill. I feel NY needs an authority like them to get this sorted because the bike industry can't compete with the auto interests when it comes to influencing policy. NY seems to be one of the worst states for corruption, which is particularly evident this past year with Sheldon Silver's conduct.

I was really involved with Gantt and Dilan's bill this session, which Gantt largely piloted dispite many objections about the passenger and helmet regulations. It finally passed in the Senate for the first year, but there are much larger forces that prevented it for being voted on in the Assembly, where it previously had no issues passing.

But the more I think about it, I don't know if we really need legislation, just some clarity. If NYS DMV law on motorized bikes doesn't apply to electric bikes based on HR 727, then we're really arguing a non-issue. It's my contention that this is the case and it's my new mission to make this abundantly clear. We might even have to make a Supreme Court case of it, I don't think it will be necessary though. It might not be easy, but that doesn't bother me much. Although, I think the bike industry would be better off supporting a case like that rather than trying to do anything in Albany.