Skip to content
Know Your Rights
Source: Queens Courier
Subject: Housing & Environmental Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Albany votes to legalize e-bikes days after green-lighting driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants

State lawmakers passed legislation Wednesday that would legalize e-bikes and e-scooters in New York City after a deal was reached Monday.

Bills S5294 and A7431 introduced by state Senator Jessica Ramos and Assemblywoman Nily Rozic, which are expected to be signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo, will end the de Blasio administration’s controversial ban on e-bikes used by thousands of immigrant delivery workers as a public safety issue while NYPD statistics show they caused just nine pedestrian injuries in 2018.

“For many of my neighbors, who are immigrant delivery workers, using alternative modes of transportation is a matter of livelihood. Legalizing e-bikes and e-scooters is a matter of equal access to our streets and our city,” Ramos said. “It is a criminal justice issue, a transportation issue, an environmental issue and a labor issue. I am proud of a bill today that delivers justice to delivery workers who have suffered from crackdowns for too long, while allowing municipalities regulation over their own streets.”

Ramos added the legislation will decriminalize the work of the estimated 30,000 food delivery workers who use e-bikes daily across the five boroughs.

“From lost wages and confiscations, delivery workers in New York City have been impacted by the ongoing criminalization of unregulated e-bike for far too long,” Rozic said. “Passage of this bill would not only deliver economic justice for thousands of workers, but also bring New York into the fold as micro mobility takes shape across the country as a means to provide affordable transportation alternatives.”

The de Blasio administration adopted a conciliatory tone.

“We appreciate this commonsense legislation that clarifies the rules around e-bikes on our streets,” City Hall spokesman Seth Stein said. “Safety for everyone on our roads is a priority, and we look forward to working with legislators and communities as we deliver plans to implement the new law.”

The immigrant community is also celebrating passage of the Green Light Bill which will restore their right to apply for driver’s licenses in New York state.

Prior to 2001, undocumented immigrants were able to apply and receive driver’s licenses but that changed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the legislation after is was passed Monday night after originally expressing his concerns that it would create a database that could exploited by federal immigration enforcement agents.

Cuomo had his administration’s counsel Alphonso David vet the legislation through Solicitor General Barbara Underwood to ensure that undocumented individual’s who apply for diver’s licenses or identification cards would not be unintentionally exposed to a federal government seeking to use their information for deportation.

Attorney General Letitia James added her support for the Green Light Bill, saying it is Constitutional and vowed to defend it against any legal challenge.

“The legislation is well crafted and contains ample protection for those who apply for driver’s licenses,” James said.

David said, based on the AG’s representation, that Cuomo would sign the bill.

“Governor Cuomo has supported this policy for over a decade,” David said. “The key to this bill is not the political intent but the legal effect. We hope the Attorney General’s assessment is correct for the safety of the thousands of unprotected individuals who are relying on her legal opinion.”

Javier H. Valdés, the co-executive director for the Jackson Heights-based Make the Road New York called passage of the Green Light Bill “one for the history books” while Nesar Bhuyan, a leader with DRUM, another Jackson Heights-based immigrant organization which co-founded the Queens Driver’s License Coalition in 2004, praised the bill’s passage.

“As an undocumented worker from Jamaica Queens, my economic and social opportunities have always been limited by my means of transportation and fear of deportation,” Bhuyan said. “This has been part of a larger climate of fear that has been created by the Trump administration. By passing this bill, New York [is] making a clear statement against this climate of fear and xenophobia. In the face of such hate federally, we must turn to the grassroots and fight for our protection locally.”