New York City Council Transportation Committee Hearing on Intro 98: Sale, Lease, Rental or Operation of Motorized Scooters

Hello, my name is Noah Budnick. I am Projects Director for Transportation Alternatives, the advocates for bicyclists, pedestrians and sensible transportation. We are an organization with 6,000 dues-paying members and have been advocating for safer streets and sidewalks and improved quality of life in New York City for thirty years.

Transportation Alternatives supports New York City Council Intro 98, which would ban the sale, lease, rental or operation of motorized scooters in New York City. We have long been concerned about motorized scooters because they are a threat to public health and safety and degrade quality of life in New York City. They are often ridden recklessly, against the flow of traffic and on sidewalks and greenway paths.

In New York City, motorized scooters exist in a legal grey-area: it is legal to sell them, but it is illegal to drive them. In order to improve the safety of the traveling public and public safety in general, motorized scooters should be banned from operating on city streets, sidewalks and bridge and greenway paths. Specifically, we urge the Council to do four things:

1. Ban the sale, lease, rental or operation of all gasoline-powered scooters in New York City.

2. Ban the sale, lease, rental or operation of all electric-powered scooters with motors over 300 watts.

3. Ban all motorized scooters from being driven on New York City sidewalks, bicycle and pedestrian bridge paths and multi-use bicycle and pedestrian paths.

4. Oppose New York State Senate bill S579-C, which would allow Segway scooters to be driven on New York City sidewalks.

Gasoline-powered scooters are incompatible with New York City’s dense streets and housing. They are noisy, polluting and a fire hazard. Gasoline-powered scooters cannot be registered with the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles and can only be operated on private property. Per gallon of gas, their two-stroke engines spew one hundred times more pollutants into our air than an automobile engine. Additionally, gasoline-powered scooters have caused serious fires, most notably, a June 2003 fire that killed a fourteen year old Harlem girl. Given these threats to public safety, gasoline-powered scooters should be banned in New York.

In a city constantly fighting gridlock, Transportation Alternatives recognizes the need to create alternatives to automobile travel. We support allowing low-powered electric scooters to travel on city streets—not sidewalks or greenway paths. A scooter with a 300-watt electric motor, the electric scooter standard set by the European Union, can travel around 12mph, which is the average speed a bicyclist rides in city traffic. Provided that electric scooter riders use lights and a bell, which are also required for cyclists, they should be allowed to operate their vehicles on New York City streets—again, not on sidewalks or multi-use paths.

Transportation Alternatives emphasizes our position that no one should be allowed to drive any scooter, whether it’s electric or gasoline-powered or a Segway scooter, on any New York City sidewalk, bicycle and pedestrian bridge path or multi-use bicycle and pedestrian path. Pedestrians are already a much beleaguered group and should not be put in harms way and forced to contend with anyone driving a vehicle on the sidewalk.

New York City traffic law already bans people from driving motor vehicles, limited use vehicles (motor vehicles with a maximum performance speed of less than forty miles per hour, e.g. motorized scooters) and bicycles on the sidewalk. (See New York City Traffic Rules Section 4-07, "Other Restrictions on Movement," section (c) "Restrictions on crossing sidewalks," paragraph (3) "Bicycles and limited use vehicles," part (ii) and New York City Traffic Rules Section 4-01, "Words and phrases defined," section (b) "Definitions," "Limited use vehicle.") In any new City legislation, this prohibition on sidewalk driving, of motorized scooters and Segway devices, should be continued.

In New York City it is rightly illegal for an adult to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk. The average bicycle weighs less than 30 pounds, yet adult bicyclists are too big, too fast and too threatening to safely share space with small children, seniors and other vulnerable pedestrians. Likewise, allowing any motorized scooter, gasoline or electric-powered, to drive on the sidewalk puts children, seniors, persons with disabilities and the blind in danger.

For the aforementioned reasons, we also urge the City Council to oppose New York State Senate bill S579-C, which would allow Segway scooters to be driven on sidewalks throughout New York State, including in New York City. The following organizations oppose the bill:

New York City Department of Transportation AAA New York State American Lung Association of New York State New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) New York Statewide Senior Action Council Citizens Environmental Coalition Environmental Advocates of New York Tri-State Transportation Campaign Natural Resources Defense Council Regional Plan Association Transportation Alternatives Brain Injury Society Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center’s Homebound Elderly Program Institute for Transportation & Development Policy Manhattan Borough-Wide Inter-Agency Council on Aging Neighborhood Streets Network New York Bicycling Coalition SAFE KIDS New York State Sierra Club, Atlantic Chapter Sierra Club, New York City Washington Heights & Inwood Council on Aging

Transportation Alternatives urges Council to act quickly and ban gas-powered scooters from the city and electric-powered scooters from city sidewalks.

Thank you.

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Testimony of Noah Budnick, Projects Director, Transportation Alternatives