Are Electric Scooters Legal in NYC?

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As a compact eco-friendly transportation tool, electric scooters have become a common sight in West Coast cities. Even in places where the laws are still a bit fuzzy about electric scooters, it doesn’t stop people from riding them.

In keeping with this state of affairs, it would only be logical to assume that electric scooters are legal or at least unaddressed by New York and New York City laws.

But this assumption would be wrong and might result in a hefty fine. This is why it pays to take a closer look at the legal history of electric scooters in NYC.

​Electric Scooters ​in NYC ? It All Started in 2004

As of 2004, it is illegal for any form of motorized scooters on the streets of NYC. In addition, the legislation also prohibits the rental, lease, and sales of these two-wheelers in NYC. If you translate the legislation into money, a $500 fine is issued to riders. Hustlers who are caught peddling motorized scooters get a $1,000 fine and the amount doubles for repeat offenders.

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All of this sounds a bit too much, especially if you consider that federal laws at the time already prohibited high-speed scooters on all streets and sidewalks. Nevertheless, the NYC Council was unanimous in their decision to override the legislative veto of Mayor Bloomberg.

One can only wonder what motivated the decision and united the Council in their effort to see the legislation through.

The logic is quite simple​. Motorized scooters have become so prevalent that they impede on the daily lives of New Yorkers. Michael E. McMahon, Staten Island councilman at the time, was worried that his fellow residents would get injured if they encounter a swarm of teenagers on motorized scooters. Even worse, a child might get injured and this is why he sponsored the legislation.

Citizen protection and child safety are crucial in a metropolis like NYC and the electric scooter legislation is still in effect.

But, as it turns out, it has largely failed to keep motorized scooters, electric or otherwise, away from the streets and sidewalks of New York.

What’s the Silver Lining?

Fast forward 14 years and there has been some progress in making electric scooters legal in NYC. The council members are now aware that this mode of transportation is more of a genuine need than a risk. In addition, the NY subway is not exactly perfect and the bus lanes are notoriously slow. If you add pollution into the mix, an alternative eco-friendly transportation tool would make sense.

The council members have been planning to introduce a few bills that would make electric scooters and bikes legal. And on Wednesday, November 28, 2018, a four-bill legislative package was brought in front of the city’s transportation committee. Now, you have to wait for the legislative process, which can take a while even if the package comes out of the transportation committee unscathed.

But what happens in the meantime? You should be able to ride your electric scooters carefree. Technically, you’ll be breaking the law but the law is actually not being enforced. In other words, police officers are likely to turn a blind eye if they see you whizzing past on an electric scooter.

Take a closer look at the preferred transportation tools of Casey Neistat, the famous YouTuber who lives and works in NYC. His daily rides include an array of electric scooters, bikes, skateboards, and the like (most of which are illegal). If the law was followed to the T, Neistat’s daily commute would cost a pretty penny.

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The Business Side

NYC is potentially one of the most lucrative markets for e-scooter companies like Lime and Bird. According to the Verge, these companies are anxiously waiting for the prospect of conquering the NYC e-scooter market. And there have been some rumors of talks between local officials, lobbyists, and the companies’ representatives in the late summer of 2018.

Who knows, these talks might have led to the four-bill legislative package that followed a few months later. Either way, anyone who lives in NY knows how beneficial the legalization would be. It’s a win-win situation. E-scooter companies get to fight for a piece of the pie and New Yorkers don’t have to receive a fine if they ride an e-scooter.

One of the likely outcomes is a pilot program. It might legalize e-scooters but put some limitations on the scope, usage, and types of scooter.

Conclusion on ​Electric Scooters Legal in NYC

The fact that electric scooters are illegal in NYC might come as a surprise, though you probably won’t have to wait for too long before they become legal. And since the 2004 ban is being overlooked, there is no need to worry too much if you decide to switch to this eco-friendly mode of transport.

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