When can I use a bike lane in NYC? E-bike, e-scooter, moped differences explained

(Via NYC Department of Transpoirtation)

In light of some confusion about what types of vehicles — both gas-powered and electric — are allowed on the streets and/or in bike lanes in New York City, the NYPD and other officials are hoping to simplify the issue with some charts and tables. 

Not everything is an e-bike. And not every electric vehicle is even legal in New York. Police are urging you to know the differences among the various so-called micro-mobility devices so that you can ride safely and follow the law. 

This is especially important in light of the rise in incidents involving illegal motorcycles, scooters, and ATVs on the streets, which sometimes end in tragedy

"Where you are allowed to ride and how you ride in NYC depends on the type of e-bike or vehicle you have," the Transportation Department states on its website. "E-bikes and mopeds can look quite similar, so know what you are riding."

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Flowchart: What Is the Vehicle?

The NYPD recently shared this flowchart, which gives an overview of what is street legal and what can be ridden in bike lanes. 

The NYPD released this flowchart showing the distinctions among different small vehicles, many of which are electric-powered. 

Here is the summary: 

Bicycle with Electric Assist (e-bike)

An e-bike has pedals. It does not have a license plate. You do not need a driver's license. You can ride it in bike lanes. You cannot ride on sidewalks. 

Moped (limited-use motorcycle)

A moped does not have pedals. If it has a VIN, it must have a license plate. You need a license to operate it and you cannot ride in bike lanes or on sidewalks.

"You must have a driver license and register your moped to drive it on streets and highways," the state DMV says online. "You can never operate a moped down a sidewalk."

If the moped weighs more than 100 pounds, even if it is powered by electricity, and does not have a VIN, it cannot be registered with the DMV (meaning it lacks a license plate) and it is not street legal. 

Electric Scooter (e-scooter)

An e-scooter has handlebars and a floorboard or seat. You cannot operate it faster than 15 mph. You may ride an e-scooter in bike lanes and on streets with speed limits of 30 mph or less. You cannot ride on sidewalks. 

You can download this detailed brochure about the laws regarding e-bikes, e-scooters, and mopeds.

Illegal Vehicles

New York state bans several types of motorized vehicles from streets, highways, and sidewalks. 

"You cannot register or operate any of the motorized devices from the list below on any street, highway, parking lot, sidewalk or other area in New York State that allows public motor vehicle traffic," according to the DMV. "You may be arrested if you do."

  • Mini-bike: A small, motorized device with two wheels and created for off-road use. A mini-bike doesn't qualify as a moped, a motorcycle or an ATV.
  • Off-road motorcycle (dirt bike): A motorcycle designed for use on off-road trails or in off-road competitions.
  • Go-kart: A small, motorized device with four wheels, created for off-road use. You can't register a go-kart as a motor vehicle or ATV because a go-kart doesn’t have the same equipment.
  • Golf cart (also referred to as golf car or neighborhood electric vehicle): A small motorized device with four wheels designed to carry people.