ITHACA, N.Y. — The push to bring e-scooters to the streets of downtown Ithaca will have to carry momentum into the new year, after Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed legislation legalizing e-scooters and e-bikes.
New York’s Democratic governor called for and vetoed the bill this week, citing the omission of safety regulations he included in his version of the bill, such as a helmet requirement, saying the bill in its current form is “fatally flawed.”
“E-bikes and e-scooters carry the potential to be a useful tool in changing the way we travel and reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” said Cuomo in his veto message. ” They do, however, carry significant safety concerns.”
Whether it was the reasoning in the governor’s veto message — safety concerns, or a dispute about fusion voting between the bill’s sponsor state Sen. Jessica Ramos and the governor, as reported earlier this month by the NY Post, the veto means that state approval is likely months away
City of Ithaca Common Council tabled a resolution approving the e-scooter pilot program outright in June after members of council expressed concerns over the safety and legality of the program.
Instead, council moved to allow the city to negotiate a Memorandum of Understanding with Lime, the lone bike-share operator in the city, who would also run the scooter-share pilot — and council would revisit it once the governor signed the law.
“It’s unfortunate that Ithaca won’t have an opportunity to run a short trial with scooters, since the governor’s approval would have been well-timed for a spring debut. We could have learned a lot that would have informed future transportation decisions,” said 2nd Ward Alderperson Ducson Nguyen, who has been a proponent of bringing e-scooters to Ithaca. “I’m hoping the legislature and the governor can come to a consensus soon on legalizing e-scooters and e-bikes. It seems like any compromise will include a helmet requirement, and while I certainly encourage everyone to wear a helmet (and I always do), a requirement may limit the success of bike and scooter share programs.”
The governor’s veto leaves two possible timelines for Ithaca and Lime’s pilot program.
First, the governor could include the law as part of his executive budget proposal announced in January. Assuming the proposal remains in the final enacted budget, usually passed at the end of March (or early April, depending on his diligent lawmakers are). This would bring the pilot program back before Common Council for approval as early as April’s meeting.
Alternatively, the measure could be removed from the budget, as non-fiscal issues sometimes are, and could instead be carried by a lawmaker, such as Sen. Ramos.
This path assumes that the bill makes it over the finish line by the end of New York’s legislative session in June, and has addressed all the governor’s safety concerns. The governor would still need to call for the bill and sign it. This year, it took until December for the governor to request the bill, so this could mean a much longer timeline.