New York City is home to one of the biggest bike-sharing networks in the country, but until this week electric bicycles — regular bicycles with an electric motor to give rides a boost — were banned in the bustling city. The confusing ban has kept out bike-sharing companies and frustrated delivery workers.
On Tuesday, though, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that electric-assist bicycles, known as e-bikes, would be allowed to pedal through city streets. Any bikes that can travel faster than 20 mph aren’t allowed and hoverboards remain illegal.
The change came as a relief to riders who used the bikes for their jobs, like food and other delivery workers. Fast Company reported that 60 percent of the city’s 50,000 delivery cyclists continued to ride an e-bike despite its illegality. Now delivery workers who depend on the bikes for their livelihoods can do so without fear of a ticket or $500 fine.
Ty Collins, co-founder of Rad Power Bikes, an electric bicycle company, said in a call that the end of the ban “is at the very least giving some piece of mind that they can use an electric bike for their job.”
Collins said he thinks New York saw that they were on the losing side of the e-bikes battle. States like California and Washington have accepted the bikes and added regulations around them — not banned them.
“Progressive states are saying we can’t run away from this, can’t escape it, let’s just embrace it and put laws around it,” Collins said.
The e-bike industry is gaining traction — it’s predicted to reach $19 billion by 2022 and e-bike sales have tripled since 2015.
Other American cities are starting to see more e-bike sharing options and catching up to European and Asian countries that have offered e-bikes for years.
“The U.S. has an incredible opportunity to adopt electric bikes,” Collins said.
The ban reversal means that bike-sharing companies that offer electric-assist bicycles can operate in the city. Companies like Jump and LimeBike will be able to continue growing in a big, new market, which even Collins, who sells e-bikes directly to consumers, sees as a huge benefit.
Through the ride-sharing platforms more and more people are introduced to electric bicycles and are getting on one for the first time.