Green Technology

NYC Dept. Of Transportation Authorizes Electric Cargo Bikes For Use On City Streets

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Last month, New York City’s Department of Transportation authorized the use of electric cargo bikes on city streets, and put some key safety standards in place. On March 27, NYC DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez announced the amendments to the city’s traffic rules to allow the operation of “pedal-assist commercial bicycles,” saying “Achieving a safer and greener transportation future includes reducing the number of large, high-polluting trucks on our streets. Authorizing these new delivery options will better protect our environment and all road users.”

“Building a more sustainable city means reimagining deliveries in New York City. For too long, large trucks have been the only option, bringing congestion and pollution with them. Low- and no-emission cargo bikes are one of the ways that we’re changing that paradigm, so we can get what we want, when we want it, without poisoning our air or clogging our streets. From these new rules, to using our rivers more for deliveries through our Blue Highways initiative, to establishing microdelivery hubs, to the coming creation of a new Department of Sustainable Deliveries, we’re making it easier and cleaner for New Yorkers to get their goods and services.” — New York City Mayor Eric Adams

The rules adopted as amendments to the city’s Traffic Rules specify that operating these “pedal-assist commercial bicycles” within the city is “lawful for delivery of goods and property in commerce,” and stated that they are under the same rules that apply to all bicycles.

The definition says the e-cargo bikes can measure up to 4 feet wide and 16 feet long (which can include a trailer) and 7 feet high, and can have up to 4 wheels. These larger dimensions are meant to let small businesses and logistics firms ” to replace larger trucks and vans with cargo bicycle models successfully deployed in other cities and countries.” The top assisted speed for pedal-assist commercial bicycles was set as 15 mph, the electric motors must not be higher wattage than 750W, and the rules state that the cargo bikes must comply with the weight rating specs set by the manufacturer. To be legal, all of the commercial cargo bikes must also have a legible manufacturer’s label “permanently affixed in a prominent location” stating the wattage of the motor and the maximum assisted speed,

Taking into account the need for pedestrians to have free access to sidewalks, the rule also states that the e-cargo bikes “cannot be parked or be left unattended on a sidewalk for any reason — even temporarily,” which could become a huge issue in the absence of such a rule. Instead, the rule established a new regulation that allows for the creation of “Commercial Bicycle Loading Only” zones in which e-cargo bikes can load and unload

As part the announcement, the NYC DOT also stated that it will provide safety training and educational materials to operators of e-cargo bikes, including about charging the bikes’ batteries safely.

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