NYC Parks Department Bans E-Bikes Despite Legalization in the Rest of New York City – Bicycle Injury Lawyer Glenn Herman Weighs In
New York, NY — Signs posted around New York’s parks inform citizens of the Parks Department’s decision to ban e-bikes and e-scooters from entering certain parks. Following the legalization and growing usage of e-bikes (both privately owned and through e-bike rental services such as Citi Bike and Lime, Bird and Veo ), the Parks Department’s restrictions create a roadblock in the City’s move towards micromobility.
NYC Parks confirmed the rule on twitter, stating, “Our park rules prohibit motor vehicles in a park, except on designated park roads, greenways, and parking areas. This includes all e-bikes, scooters, mopeds, and other motorized vehicles, as defined by the @nysdmv Motor Vehicle Code.”
Technically, New York State law does not define e-bikes, pedal assist bikes, or e-scooters as motorized vehicles, even though they contain small electric motors. Section 125 of the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law states:
“Every vehicle operated or driven upon a public highway which is propelled by any power other than muscular power, except (a) electrically-driven mobility assistance devices operated or driven by a person with a disability, (a-1) electric personal assistive mobility devices operated outside a city with a population of one million or more, (b) vehicles which run only upon rails or tracks, (c) snowmobiles as defined in article forty-seven of this chapter, (d) all terrain vehicles as defined in article forty-eight-B of this chapter, (e) bicycles with electric assist as defined in section one hundred two-c of this article, and (f) electric scooters as defined in section one hundred fourteen-e of this article.”
Glenn A. Herman, a New York City trial attorney that represents among other accident victims, injured cyclists, e-scooters riders, skateboarders and pedestrians, commented that “the problem for cyclists and operators of any motorized devices in The City is that the Department of Parks rules are totally inconsistent with the laws passed last year by the New York State Legislature, which legalized the use of motorized bicycles, scooters and other devices. Keep in mind, we are not talking about mopeds which are considered a “limited use motorcycle” and which requires a driver’s license to operate. Those vehicles are not allowed in parks nor should they be.”
“We are talking about bicycles and scooters, skateboards and other microbility devices that have a small battery powered motor. There needs to be some real study and consistency behind the Parks Department’s regulations. It is not just the speed of these vehicles that is the issue. Many of the cyclists, for example in Central and Prospect Park, ride at fast speeds but do so in a safe manner. There are more and more scooters and e-bikes on the streets of the City every day. The new Mayor who takes office next month, Eric Adams, announced he will be riding his bicycle to work. Hopefully, his first hand commuting experience will benefit cyclists citiwide.”
While New York State’s definition of a motor vehicle explicitly excludes all three classes of e-bikes, the same piece of legislation allows municipalities to pass their own regulations regarding the usage of e-bikes and other vehicles. It is therefore legal for the Parks Department to ban e-bikes and e-scooters from inside NYC parks.
Concerns over e-bikes and e-scooters in New York City are widespread; some e-bikes and scooters travel at dangerously high speeds and present dangers for pedestrians and the cyclist and scooter operators themselves.. Moreover, a cyclist or scooter operator protected only by a helmet stands little chance against a 3000lb car or much heavier truck or bus.
Mr. Herman, who is an avid cyclist himself and specializes in bicycle accident personal injury cases, adds, “If e-bike and e-scooter users are prohibited from using available bike routes in parks and park roads, and are forced onto the roadways, lives are put into great danger. In Central Park, for example, if the Parks Department prohibits motorized vehicles such as e-bikes and e-scooters, e-bike and e-scooter riders will be forced to use the transverse roads to cross the park. This is a very dangerous senario evidenced by the fact that in 2019, a physician was struck and killed by a school bus on this exact road as he bicycled to work.”
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