As New York Considers The Legality of E-Scooter Rentals, Have The Risks Been Overlooked?


ITHACA, NY (WSKG) – Electric-assisted bicycles and scooters are illegal in New York State, but the state legislature might change transportation laws that govern the vehicles.

That would allow the expansion of companies that rent-out dockless bicycles and scooters.

In this Dec. 6, 2018, photo a Lime scooter customer uses his mobile app to lock up his scooter on the sidewalk after finishing his trip in downtown Washington.  (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The City of Ithaca already has rental bicycles available but it recently delayed implementation of a pilot program for e-scooters. One reason was the state legislature had not yet decided if they are legal.

Even avid cyclists like Peter Martin have reservations about e-scooters. Martin, a professor emeritus at Cornell’s Law School, says proposed changes overlook possible threats to public safety.

“By removing e-scooters from the category of motor vehicle,” he said, “it would remove them also from the driving while intoxicated or driving while impaired law of the state. And these things and alcohol and these things and drugs do not mix without disastrous results.”

The Lime Bike company currently offers rentals in Ithaca, with permission from the mayor. Martin, speaking at Common Council meetings, suggests Ithaca adopt an ordinance instead of an agreement with one company.

According to Councilman Seph Murtagh, the Ithaca Police Department also recommends an ordinance.

The bill is currently in a committee of the state legislature, and may be stuck there when its session ends this week.

Full Disclosure: Cornell University is a WSKG underwriter.