City Council Member Antonio Reynoso and officials from Bird scooters are pushing for the city to legalize electric scooters ahead of the L train shutdown.
With the L train shutdown expected to disrupt the daily commutes of more than 225,000 straphangers, officials and entrepreneurs alike have been working on ways to provide New Yorkers with other transportation options during the projected 15 month construction period.
Electric scooters, like the Bird scooters available across the country, could help fill that transit gap, according to Reynoso — but they’re currently illegal here.
City Council Members Ydanis Rodriguez and Rafael Espinal are drafting legislation to legalize electric scooters in New York City. Reynoso added his support on Monday as many in his district are set to be affected by the L train shutdown.
“New Yorkers are being shortchanged by our City’s current transportation system,” he said in a statement. “Our bus and subway systems are antiquated, our infrastructure is decaying, and in some areas, it is difficult to access the limited options that we do have. This will be even more problematic in my own district once the L train shuts down. We must take a bold and innovative approach to this problem by considering all of the transportation alternatives available to us. Electric scooters are a creative way to fill in the gaps in our city’s current transportation system.”
Electric scooters are illegal at the state level, noted NYC Department of Transportation spokesperson Alana Morales. Though the department “is not outright opposed to motorized shared-mobility options,” as shown with the spread of e-bike share in the city, she said in an email, the state still needs to weigh in.
“DOT is aware of the regulatory options and challenges around scooters, but for now, we need clarity from the state,” she said. “Any changes must balance technical and transportation issues, and especially address the safety concerns we have about these scooters and their impacts on the city streets we work to improve each day through Vision Zero.”
Bird scooters, electric scooters setting up across the country
Bird scooters are perhaps the most widely-known electric scooter rideshare option, and the company has dropped its e-scooters in more than 60 cities across the United States. Also on the electric scooter forefront are Lime, Scoot, Spin and Skip.
The companies behind these electric scooters say the transportation option is perfect for “last mile trips” — those commutes that are too long to walk but too short to drive. They also boast that rideshare electric scooters are a low-cost, environmentally-friendly transit option.
Cities haven’t exactly received electric scooters with open arms, however. Bird scooters have notoriously popped up on unannounced, with city officials even blindsided as to the company suddenly operating in their area. This has often put officials in the position of having to scramble to clarify contracts and laws after the scooters are already available to the public.
In New York City, Reynoso and others are hoping officials can legalize electric scooters now in order to usher them in as an innovative and reliable transit option, especially ahead of the L train shutdown.
As for Bird, Matt Kopko, the company’s head of global public policy, said he’s optimistic about bringing Bird scooters to Brooklyn (and beyond).
“We’ve been very encouraged by our conversations with community leaders, transit advocates, and policymakers here in New York City,” he said in a statement, “and hope to bring affordable, emission-free, and safe Bird e-scooters to New Yorkers in the outer boroughs very soon.”