Tip Sheets

Unregulated e-bikes, e-scooters could turn opportunity into nightmare

Media Contact

Lindsey Knewstub

New York state lawmakers are working to introduce a bill updating vehicle and traffic laws to legalize both e-bikes and e-scooters across the state.

Cornell experts Karan Girotra and Nicholas Klein say while e-scooters and e-bikes can provide a fast option for commuters and complement existing transit service, a lack of regulation could turn an opportunity into a nightmare.

Karan Girotra

Professor of Operations, Technology and Information Management

Karan Girotra is a professor of operations, technology and innovation at Cornell University, and has collaborated with companies building new business models in the areas of urban living and smart transportation.

“Well-regulated use of e-scooters and e-bikes can significantly improve urban commutes by providing a healthy, fast option for commuters; relieving congestion on roads and easing the pressure on public transit. Yet a number of rules and regulations are needed to ensure the safe design of vehicles, adequate sharing of roads and sidewalks, and appropriate parking rules, amongst others.

“Shared scooters offered by transportation network companies for by-the-minute rental present further challenges. While more convenient, they also tend to attract riders with limited experience. The strategy of many companies to simply saturate cities with a large number of scooters can lead to poor parking — a lack of regulation here can turn this opportunity into a nightmare.”

Nicholas Klein

Assistant Professor of City & Regional Planning

Nicholas Klein is an assistant professor of city and regional planning, and an expert on transportation planning. Klein focuses on understanding the factors that influence how people travel on a daily basis and how these changes play out over the course of their lives.

“State and local legislation on e-bikes and e-scooters in New York will hopefully add some clarity to the legal uncertainty about the status of emerging travel modes. This issue has become pressing amid the rise of micromobility companies, such as Lime and Bird, who are developing innovative transportation options for cities.

“In the past year, micromobility companies have proliferated, with thousands of riders making tens of thousands of trips in cities like Paris, Austin, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and D.C. E-bikes and e-scooters are not going to solve every transportation problem for everyone, but they can be an additional item on the menu of transportation options in cities. They work particularly well as a complement to existing transit service.”

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