New York City: No Electric Bikes Allowed



The fine for riding an electric bike in New York City has increased from $500 to $1,000, preventing New Yorkers from adopting these bike/scooter hybrids. The increased fee was announced by city council member Jessica Lappin, who called these bikes a “scourge.” Tell us how you really feel, Jess.

Electric bikes have been illegal in the entire state of New York since 2004. The reason that NYC is stepping up the fine is due to supposed numerous complaints of pedestrians nearly being hit on the congested NYC streets, and bike lanes, by delivery men using electric bikes which can reach speeds up to 30 miles per hour. David Pollack from the Committee for Taxi Safety went so far to say the bikes “a menace to little children” and a “menace to society”.

New York City is not the only major city to ban electric bikes. The Chinese city of Shenzhen has banned electric bikes in downtown areas to reduce related traffic accidents. The problem is that these bikes utilize bike-only lanes, despite being more akin to scooters. While plenty of other cities have found ways to handle the problem, New York’s outright ban is short-sighted at least; electric bicycle sales are set to skyrocket in the next few years.

Electric bike riders in NYC are, as expected, not very pleased with this increased fee and plan to find ways around it. The easiest loop hole is to simply turn the electric engine off and ride the bike normally around law enforcement. Other options include buying certain electric bikes with “stealth” engines on the frame.

If any readers live in NYC we would love to hear if you have had any electric bike encounters and what you think of the current NYC situation. Sound off in the comments below!


Andrew Meggison was born in the state of Maine and educated in Massachusetts. Andrew earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Government and International Relations from Clark University and a Master’s Degree in Political Science from Northeastern University. Being an Eagle Scout, Andrew has a passion for all things environmental. In his free time Andrew enjoys writing, exploring the great outdoors, a good film, and a creative cocktail. You can follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewMeggison 

About the Author

Andrew Meggison was born in the state of Maine and educated in Massachusetts. Andrew earned a Bachelor's Degree in Government and International Relations from Clark University and a Master's Degree in Political Science from Northeastern University. In his free time Andrew enjoys writing, exploring the great outdoors, a good film, and a creative cocktail. You can follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewMeggison
  • Brian

    Crazy. I was there a few weeks ago, there are lots of them there. Had no idea they were illegal.

    • lommp

      i like the fact that laws don’t matter much. at least not to me. why just the other week, i drove an unregistered, uninsured car about 100 miles because i didn’t want to pay to have it towed.
      i’m all for these electric bikes, and if they are illegal, even more so.

  • “Special” , entitled, uber-rich and facing a failing economy and oil prices rising at exponential rates? naive?

    • Oil prices are falling, by the way. Globally. Also, I think you might not understand what “exponentially” means. Thanks for the enthusiasm, though.

  • UKGary

    I think 30 MPH is too fast for an electric bike. In the UK electric bikes are allowed, but are speed limited to 15 MPH.

    Anything faster is considered a motorcycle and requires a motorcycle licence, helmet, road tax and insurance and must comply with design regulations for motorcycles.

    • Mark Penrice

      Anything more than that is not only faster, but typically heavier, meaning if you hit someone you impart far more energy and cause more injury … and with no license to lose, what’s to stop you tearing around on it drunk or on drugs, unlit and with no identifying marks to track you down after a hit and run?

      Whereas even quite weedy mopeds that struggle to crest 20mph and don’t weigh a whole lot more still require tax, lights, registration plate, helmet and annual safety checks.

      15mph is quite a good pace compared to what a regular person can manage by themselves, and 200-300w (about 1/3 to 1/2 horsepower) a useful booster, particularly if you’re carrying packages and going over a lot of hills, it can really improve your average speed to be guaranteed of that baseline speed – or at least that extra thrust when you + motor still can’t maintain 15. And around a normal sized city (excepting the less central parts of gargantuan places like London, NYC, LA…), you won’t gain too much more time by accelerating past that.

      NY could maybe benefit from looking into that as an alternative path. Either limit your speed, particularly when you’re riding through parks / on sidewalks / other places you’re mixing it with pedestrians, or register it as a full moped, with everything that entails.

      Problem is, the city does seem to have a terrible infestation of bike riders who are, for want of a better word, absolute dicks, and were plenty capable of causing carnage even before they could zip around at 50cc moped speeds without having to pedal. That needs to be worked on at the same time as well, some kind of public education campaign or even civil militancy to confront those who ride in such a manner.

  • Jason Carpp

    That is so wrong! It’s one thing to pay to ride an electric bike or an electric scooter, but an outright ban on electric bikes seems unfair. Why do they do that?

  • Michael Dougherty

    Electric Bikes are catching on in Europe. France has a great electric bike share program. You join the association and the first half hour is free for short commutes from one side of town to the other. I have riden electric bikes 1000’s of miles and think it is a great alternative form of transportation.

    • Everyone at Gas 2 heartily agrees with you.

  • nobama is goodabma

    Another lunatic attack by the liberal loonies who pretend to want clean air and efficiency but NOT in my back yard
    Hypocrites all !

    • What the hell are you talking about? Did you wake up on the wrong side of your cousin this morning or something?

  • Steve Stollman

    It’s complicated: Federal law says 20 MPH and one horse motor and it is a kind of bicycle, to be regulated, like bikes, by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, is not a motorized vehicle and that this Federal law supersedes State law. The State is virtually silent and decades behind the times. I’m not aware of any State law that touched on this subject in 2004. The City passed a law in 2004 that legalized any motorized vehicle that traveled less than 15 MPH. The new law is meant to negate that 2004 law. One benefit of this is that 300 pound, un-pedal-able phony “ebikes” are being defined out of existence.

    A careful reading reveals that pedal-activated electric-assist bikes would still be allowed under this new law 1026. No so for models with throttles and accelerators, buttons or twist-handles, which are to be considered mopeds of a kind, and must receive a blessing from the State. Since the State currently has no category for these vehicles they are, perforce, illegal. There is a good legalization bill in the NYS Senate, S390. which parallels the Federal statute. The Assembly has a version which bans kids under 16 years of age as riders, which eliminates the potential for these machines to become family vehicles, taking the kid the school etc. which seems like a pointless restriction.

    The news headlines about this bill were dead wrong in so many respects that the public’s understanding of this issue is minus zero. You can see the texts of the bills on my website and since I was the only person to testify at the bill-signing, pro or con (I was both), I can attest that the interest level in this legislation is very low. Most people expect that the enforcement will be lax and the effects will blow over quickly. I think that those who benefit from petroleum-fueled industrial-scale transport, including the owners of car-ad fueled tabloids, will continue to be thrilled and delighted by any techniques that are found to hold off the electric-assisted, human-scale and human-powered future, for as long as possible and by any means necessary.

    We need to accelerate the design of these, mostly urban, vehicles of the future. suggests one way to do this is by encouraging small-scale design/build projects everywhere, for both bikes and trikes and wheelchairs, to provide weather protection and passenger capacity etc. so that minimal vehicles can be maximally useful. Expanding bike-share concepts to enable a host of unique vehicles instead of an army of identical ones, is another way to introduce novel and better ways to get around.

    Do no harm, get healthy exercise and have some fun. Ride a pedal-activated ebike and enter Hybrid Heaven.

    • While you are 100% correct, the problem with all that is educating the officers giving tickets, the judges enforcing them, etc. The consumers may get it, the bike stores may get it, but is it worth the hassle to understand the law only to have to (potentially) defend yourself over and over? “Officer, this type of electric bike isn’t illegal – it’s only the other type.”

      This is a move to protect car-makers, as far as I can tell. Maybe that and the revenue the gov’t gets from gas. It just doesn’t make any sense in another guise.

  • Rich

    Yes, instead you should hop on an internal combustion engine motorcycle/scooter and make NYC’s awful air quality even worse. The problem is the idiot deliverymen, not the machine.

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  • I’m an informed commentator. I live in New York City and owned an electric bike (a FlyKly — technically an electric bike but in practice a slow scooter) for a year. I rode it 1,200 miles in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens last year, including (in bike lanes) over the Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg, Queensboro, and Pulaski bridges.

    My bike had a top speed of 23mph — slower than the FASTEST bicyclist, but in practice faster than almost every bicyclist on the street. Because it was comparably fast, and because it looked like a scooter, bicyclists didn’t like it in the bike lanes (and I was occasionally harassed). So I mostly rode it in the street, with traffic. The exception is that on bridges, I had to ride in the bike lane.

    I was never ever EVER stopped or hassled by the NYPD in 1,200 miles of riding, not once. I did ride respectfully, stopping at red lights and stop signs just like a Vespa would, and staying out of the way of bicycles and cars.

    Once I was stopped by a traffic officer standing on a corner because I crossed alongside a line of pedestrians, but as soon as she saw I was on an electric bike and not a Vespa, she waved me on. I was occasionally hassled by business owners for parking on the sidewalk in front of their businesses, but once I pointed out that it was not a gas-powered scooter, they usually left me alone.

    The law is nonsense, and federal law contravenes it. Electric bikes comparable to mine, under federal law, are explicitly required to be treated as bicycles and permitted on public ways. We haven’t yet had a test case. Unfortunately I’ve sold my electric bike (I now ride a 100cc motorcycle, which gets over 100mpg), so I won’t be the test case.

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