When he vetoed a bill that would have paved the way to legalizing electric scooters and all classes of electric bikes, back in January, Gov. Cuomo said the measure was lacking important safety provisions.
A new version, folded like so many others in amid the financial details of the state budget for 2020-21, did pass last week.
Its primary backers, state Sen. Jessica Ramos (D-East Elmhurst) and Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Fresh Meadows), said last week that the safety provisions now are accounted for.
But both, in a joint press release dated April 1, said it also contains their original provision that impaired or drunk scooter operators will not be subjected to DWI laws unless and until there is a collision.
No other motor vehicle in the state, including golf carts and riding mowers, enjoys such a carve-out.
Safety provisions that now are in place include the requirement of helmets for operators ages 16 to 18, as well as those operating class 3 electric bikes, which can hit speeds of up to 25 miles per hour. Fixed safety equipment is required on the vehicles.
The more powerful, higher-speed vehicles are very popular among food delivery drivers, allowing them to make more deliveries with a far less physical toll than other means of transportation.
Many of those employed in the profession are minorities and especially immigrants. Representatives of the two legislators, in emails to the Chronicle, said the carve-out for operating under the influence is intended to protect operators from police profiling.
“The bill completely prohibits people from using e-bikes or e-scooters while drinking or under the influence of drugs,” wrote Zameena Mejia, spokeswoman for Ramos. “DWI tests can only occur if a person riding an e-bike or e-scooter is involved in a crash as an effort to prevent law enforcement from profiling people who use these methods of transportation, who most often tend to be immigrants, low-income delivery workers and people without reliable access to public transit.”
Meagan Molina, responding for Rozic, struck a similar chord.
“The DWI language applies to both electric bicycles and scooters and is written as such so that people are prohibited from using either of these devices while drinking or under the influence,” Molina wrote. “The reason for enforcing DWI penalties in the event of a collision is because it gives law enforcement cause for conducting a DWI test, therefore reducing profiling. Our goal in legalizing these devices was to end the criminalization of low-income, immigrant delivery workers and to provide an affordable mode of transportation for people living in transit deserts so limiting law enforcement’s ability to profile was an essential factor in developing the language.”
Molina did not reply to a follow-up email requesting what consideration was taken during deliberations for anyone who might be injured by an impaired rider.