At Mayor Bill de Blasio's direction, the Department of Transportation drafted a rule that would clarify pedal-assist bikes, which operate only when a person pedals, legal.
Throttle e-bikes, which can operate without human power and often allow for higher speeds of travel, would remain illegal.
"If they want to make it legal, it's better for us," said Juan Gonzalez, a delivery worker in New York City.
The new rule would help commuters and delivery workers, but not pedicab operators, who also rely on bicycles to get around.
In a statement, the mayor's office explained, "Motorized pedicabs are categorically different under the law," and in a separate statement added that they are, "expressly prohibited."
"Well, it's sad," said Gregg Zuman, who runs Revolution Rickshaws and sees pedicabs as a pollution-free transportation alternative. "It just limits potential."
The trouble goes back to a law New York City passed years ago specifically about pedicabs and no other cyclists requiring pedicabs be "solely propelled by human power."
The law is enforced by the Department of Consumer affairs which regulates the pedicab industry.
While the new DOT rule offers clarity to cyclists, it does not remove the pedicab restrictions enforced by the DCA, meaning pedicabs will be some of the only cyclists unable to use pedal-assist technology, should the new DOT rule be approved.
"The city has been very slow in implementing e-bikes to be allowed in our streets," said Council Member Rafael Espinal, who chairs the committee with the power to help change the pedicab law.
Espinal is sympathetic to the pedicab industry.
"Pedicabs should be able to use the pedal assist e-bikes," Espinal said. "It would only be fair that we allow everyone using a bike to be able to tap into the pedal assist technology."
Espinal said he is drafting a bill that would allow pedicabs to use pedal assist technology, but until that happens, pedicab operators complain they will be unfairly left out of progress.
"The whole industry would breathe a sigh of relief," said Zuman, regarding the potential for legislation to include them in the city's new stance on e-bikes. "It would honor the peddlers. They work really hard already."
HOST (Hop On Short Trips), a zero-emission transportation company that offers New Yorkers a fun new way to move locally, is a vocal advocate of pedicabs and sent Eyewitness News this statement:
"HOST applauds the efforts of NYC Council Member Espinal to bring low-speed, electrically-assisted pedicabs to New York City. E-pedicabs are not only carbon-free, but a cost-effective and tailor-made solution to get people out of cars for short distance trips through our city's congested streets. We look forward to continuing to work proactively with the City Council, Department of Consumer Affairs, Department of Transportation, Mayor de Blasio and local advocacy groups such as Transportation Alternatives to help ensure that e-pedicabs can become part of the solution for getting New Yorkers around ahead of the impending L-Train shutdown."
The city is taking public comments on the DOT proposal to allow pedal-assist bikes ahead of a hearing on the issue May 29 at 1:30 p.m. You can weigh in by clicking on this link: DOT Notice of Public Hearing.
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