On Jan. 21, less than a month after vetoing a bill that would have led the way to legalized electric scooters and throttle-assist bikes, Gov. Cuomo announced his intention to get similar legislation passed in his annual executive budget address.
The announcement was met with particular delight by state Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Fresh Meadows) and state Sen. Jessica Ramos (D-East Elmhurst), who were the primary sponsors of the vetoed bills in their respective chambers.
They had been advocating especially hard for people such as food delivery drivers, many of whom are immigrants, who prefer the speed and performance of the as-of-now prohibited vehicles while on the job.
Under existing law, NYPD officers are able to ticket operators of the vehicles and sometimes impound them, costing the workers fines and lost wages.
Rozic that day even sent out a press release stating long negotiations with Cuomo’s staff and others had paid off, including the addition of safety provisions Cuomo had sought.
But Rozic’s statement also included mention of “provisions that would establish DWI penalties only in the event of a collision.” Drivers of cars, trucks and other classes of motor vehicles can be stopped and hit with significant penalties without first hitting or getting hit by something or someone.
Two days later Cuomo in a statement said safety precautions for e-bikes and e-scooters both would have “DUI protections.”
DWI is the standard abbreviation for driving while intoxicated, or having a .08 blood alcohol content reading. DUI, short for driving under the influence, is formally known in New York State as driving while ability impaired, meaning a BAC reading of at least .05 but not in excess of .07.
Both have varying degrees based on substances and circumstances involved.
Neither Rozic nor the governor went into additional specifics. But the language did not escape the attention of Richard Mallow, executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving New York. He said there should be no distinction among vehicles when it comes to drunk driving.
“In my opinion, if you are operating any motor vehicle, a car, a truck, a moped under the influence of alcohol or drugs and get pulled over you have violated the law,” he said. “You shouldn’t have to wait until someone is injured before you decide that it’s a crime.”
A reading of Rozic’s and Ramos’ bills — A7431-B and S5294-A, respectively — found no specific mention of driving while intoxicated or impaired, but the legislation did make general references to existing state motor vehicle laws and regulations.
The Chronicle contacted Rozic’s office by email on Jan. 31 with six questions seeking to determine if she still wants an exception to be carved out for scooter and e-bike operators, and its possible effect on public safety.
A spokeswoman replied that Rozic, who was in Albany in session, would comment on her prior bill but that there was not yet any specific language for new legislation, and referred questions on specifics to Cuomo’s office.
Neither the governor’s press office nor Ramos’ office responded to emailed requests for comment.