New York State’s law regarding the definition of electric bicycles conflicts with the most recent definition in federal law, leading to confusion, negative outcomes, and wrongfully issued violations.
In 2002, federal law was amended to distinguish bicycles with low-power electric motors capable of reaching speeds of 20 mph or less, from motorcycles, mopeds, and motor vehicles. The New York Legislature never enacted a conforming update to state law. Accordingly, these bicycles are considered “low-powered motorcycles” by New York State law.
As the electric bicycle industry grows nationwide, these vehicles are becoming a popular transportation option, exacerbating the conflict between the New York State and federal definition.
There are practical consequences to this legal inconsistency. New Yorkers who ride electric bicycles are shocked to learn that they may receive unregistered motor vehicle or unlicensed operation violations for riding a bicycle that cannot be ridden faster than 20 mph. Some electric bicycle riders report receiving hundreds of dollars in violations for a bike they purchased in a department store.
Finally, because federal law preempts state law, this conflict raises significant legal questions about the validity of the Dept. of Motor Vehicle’s registration requirements and the subsequent enforcement of those violations.
This bill solves the problem by aligning New York State law with the federal law, and clarifying that electric bicycles, which have a top speed of 20 mph, are not motor vehicles. Since electric bicycles travel at about the same speed as bicycles, and weigh about the same as ordinary bicycles, it is appropriate to align New York State’s definition with the federal government’s definition.
For these reasons Transportation Alternatives strongly supports the passage of this legislation.