It’s a battlefield for pedestrians

Aside from regular cars, trucks, and taxis, New Yorkers have to share the road with bicycles, scooters, and even unicycles.

The Coronavirus crisis has caused increased ridership in bikes and scooters especially e-bikes and e-scooters.   There was a move to legalize e-bikes last summer, but it got stalled over the issue of requiring riders to use helmets.  Deals have been struck during the budget negotiation, and legislation was passed this last April legalizing e-bikes and e-scooters.

Effective August 20, 2020,

  • e-bikes or electric assist bikes are legalized on some streets and highways of New York State;
  • e-bikes can be ridden on roads with speed limits of 30 mph or lower;
  • e-bikes can carry an operator and passengers;
  • e-scooters with speeds up to 20 mph are legalized on some of the streets and highways of New York State; an operator and passenger are permissible; and operators under 18 must wear a helmet.
  • cities have the right to ban e-scooters. This is discussed in the accompanying article.

E-bikes do not need to be registered in New York with the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Electric bikes include both power assist bikes and throttle bikes.  Power assist bikes can reach 20 mph.  These bikes require the operator to pump the pedals.  However, throttle-controlled bikes are also legalized, and these can reach speeds of 25 mph.  The throttle bikes do not require any pedaling.

E-scooters are mopeds which are mini-motorcycles.  Most of them are Vespa mopeds which is popular on the streets of Italy.  The difference between a moped and an e-scooter is that an e-scooter is solely electric powered.

In comparison to e-bike and e-scooter operation, motorcycle and motor vehicle owners must carry insurance.  In comparison, these e-vehicles are not deemed motor vehicles like cars and trucks and buses, and these e-bike owners are not required to  carry insurance to protect pedestrians.  But the reality is that these are motorized vehicles that can go at the same speed as car on the City streets.

It is noteworthy that Revel has entered the e-scooter rental market in New York.  Other rental companies, such as Lyft, will follow. However, Revel has suspended it’s operations in New York City due to two recent fatalities.  This is discussed in the accompanying article.

Essentially, New York has allowed new classes of motorized vehicles to use the roads, and there are no insurance requirements.  In the context of an accident, there will be many open questions as to liability of the operator and the liability of the owner rental company.  It is clear from the law that the owner does not have to carry insurance for the benefit of injured persons, therefore, an injured pedestrian will have to look to his own health insurance.

Pedestrians, beware!  We urge you to be extra careful in that e-bikes and e-scooters have been added to the mix of traffic.

If you have been involved in an accident with an e-bike or an e-scooter, please feel free to call us.