As City Looks To Legalize Certain E-Bikes, Uber Buys Brooklyn Bike-Share Company

As City Looks To Legalize Certain E-Bikes, Uber Buys Brooklyn Bike-Share Company
Throttle-style e-bikes will remain banned in New York, while expensive pedal assist bikes may be legalized by the DOT (Paul Stremple/BKLYNER)

Last year, Mayor De Blasio announced a crackdown on e-bikes, stating that NYPD would begin issuing tickets to riders and confiscating electrically powered bikes, which have been illegal to operate in New York City, but generally ignored by police.

As the city began 2018 cracking down on bikes, the differences between pedal-assist bikes, which amplify a rider’s own efforts, and throttle bikes, which require no pedaling, has become a point of distinction.

Earlier this month, the DOT announced that it would change the vague rules about motorized scooters and bikes to explicitly allow pedal-assist e-bikes, Streetsblog reported. While DOT Commissioner Trottenberg cited the speed of throttle e-bikes as dangerous, many pedal-assist bikes can be just as fast. The most striking difference between the two is cost, with pedal-assist bikes costing thousands of dollars more than the cheap, throttle e-bikes favored by delivery drivers.

Following the announcement about pedal-assist e-bikes, Uber announced this week that it would be buying the Brooklyn-based company Jump Bikes, which operates a dockless pedal-assist bike service.

Operating on a bike-share model, like CitiBike, Jump Bikes have a key difference—they lock themselves up and can be left anywhere, instead of needing a docking station like CitiBike. While residents may complain about the parking spots taken up by large CitiBike docks, there are also fears about dockless bikes littering the streets and sidewalks of Brooklyn, abandoned at the ends of rides and not picked up again.

Corporate backing from the ride-hailing giant could position Jump Bikes to capitalize on New York’s call for a dockless bike share pilot program later this year. With the asymmetrical crackdown on e-bikes, New York City is paving the way for major corporate interests to launch new business ventures, while still putting the hammer to working-class citizens like delivery riders.


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