Did you know that the first six months of 2021 were some of the deadliest for all roadway users per miles driven, in over ten years? Despite the fact that there are less cars on the road with many still working from home, cars are speeding and we’re seeing new vehicles like e-bikes and e-scooters traveling our shared roads.
These new vehicles fall under the general category of “micromobility,” a fairly new term in the world of transportation vocabulary. Micromobility refers to small, lightweight vehicles driven at speeds below 15.53 mph (25 km/h). They are a relatively new type of motorized transportation whose use on New York State roadways was only legalized in 2020.
This type of transportation is designed to replace short car trips with a more eco-friendly option while addressing other challenges such as traffic congestion. Micromobility also offers first/last mile solutions, helping to reduce the distance between a traveler’s origin/destination and the nearest transit stop. Almost all of these devices are battery operated/electric powered and soundless. There are several types and categories of micromobility devices.
E-scooters can be used seated or standing; they require no license and
they may use bike lanes, including bridges. They are often used by children ages 8 years and older. They can be purchased for a starting price of as low as $300.
E-bikes can be either power assist or totally electric. No license or registration is needed, and they may be used in bike lanes, including those on bridges.
Mopeds – Classes C, B, and A
Class C Moped - Low-speed, (20 mph) may have 2-3 wheels. User must have a driver’s license and vehicle must be registered with NYS DMV. May be ridden in right lane or on shoulder. Helmet recommended.
Class B Moped – Low speed (30 mph), may have 2-3 wheels. User must have a driver’s license and vehicle must be registered with NYS DMV. May be ridden in right lane or on shoulder. Helmet required by law.
Class A Moped - Low speed (40 mph), may have 2-3 wheels. User must have a driver’s license and vehicle must be registered with NYS DMV. Must use vehicular travel lanes. Helmet required by law.
Advantages of Micromobility
More micromobility means less cars on the road; 30% of riders used an e-scooter to replace a car ride on their most recent trip. Use of these electric vehicles also reduces carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Replacing a car commute with micromobile travel methods saves up to 200 kilograms of CO2 annually. These vehicles also lend themselves to shortened commute times; many shorten their commute from public transit to their final destination by using a micromobility device. They are also relatively inexpensive to use, and they can often be conveniently rented by the day, week, or month.
Disadvantages of Micromobility
Safety—or lack thereof—is one of the biggest disadvantages of micromobility. There were 41 deaths in 2019 and most were two vehicle crashes involving automobiles. E-scooters were the most dangerous, and male riders crashed more than female riders. Lack of training may at least partly contribute to the deaths and injuries that are occurring, especially among inexperienced drivers. Although mopeds are required to be registered with the DMV, registration is not always enforced. Lack of enforcement stems from a general lack of knowledge about the few regulations surrounding these vehicles, as they are so new. Another disadvantage is that there are restrictions as to where mopeds and scooters can be ridden. They cannot use bicycle lanes or sidewalks.
All micromobility devices are battery operated and make no sound. Unlike gasoline powered vehicles of this nature, pedestrians or other non-motorized bicyclists cannot hear them coming. Frequently riders of these devices disregard traffic regulations, including one-way restrictions, making them dangerous to pedestrians trying to cross streets. These vehicles also require parking which may be extremely limited in congested areas. Many rental scooters/mopeds are frequently left on sidewalks.
Vehicle & Traffic Laws Regulating the Use of E-Scooters and E-Bikes
Effective April 2020 NY State law allows people to operate bicycles with electric assist on some streets and highways in New York State. Effective August 2, 2020, the law allows people to operate electric scooters1 (e-scooters) and e-bicycles on some streets and highways in New York State. Additionally, municipalities can further regulate the time, place and manner of operation of these devices.
You cannot register or operate any of the following motorized devices on any street, highway, parking lot, sidewalk or other area in New York State that allows public motor vehicle traffic. You may be arrested if you do. Banned motorized devices include: ATVs, Mini-bikes, Dirt Bikes, Go-Karts and Golf Carts.
Everyone’s safety on our roadways depends on available infrastructure. While there is infrastructure in place, such as protected and non-protected bike lanes, sidewalks, parks with bike paths, roadways, shoulders, and geofenced “no-go” areas that allow towns to control where shared e-scooters and e-bikes can ride, there is currently a great lack of supporting infrastructure specifically for micromobility devices.
The Future of Micromobility on Long Island
Walk Safe Long Island held a Virtual Town Hall on Wednesday, September 29, all about the present and future role of micromobility devices in transportation. Audience polls revealed the following. When asked, “Do you own or regularly use an e-bike, e-scooter, or other micromobility device,” only one of 15 answered yes. Despite the audience’s lack of personal use, when asked “Do you see these types of vehicles in your area, 12 out of 15 answered “yes” or “somewhat.”
Only a few of the aforementioned infrastructure needs are commonplace in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. Considering the rapid proliferation of these types of vehicles, added to our already crowded roadways, it may become necessary to develop new supporting infrastructure. For more discussion on the topic of micromobility, tune into the Walk Safe Long Island Virtual Town Hall.