As soon as the new law is filed in Albany, it will be legal to ride an electric-assist bicycle on all New Paltz roads. A law passed at the March 17 Town Council meeting overrides the wording in the state law, which prevents their use on roads with a speed limit over 30 mph. Police Chief Robert Lucchesi has stated more than once at public meetings that police officers don’t have the authority not to enforce particular laws, which means that this measure was needed to allow for more widespread use of these vehicles.
What this law does not authorize is riding a bicycle on a sidewalk, or operating a gasoline-powered bicycle, anywhere in the community. These continue to be illegal, and presumably if a police officer observes either sort of operation, that officer would be obligated to stop it.
The only person who testified during the public hearing was Janelle Peotter, who spoke about the difficulty of riding a manual bicycle up to a home on Mountain Rest Road if one has an aging body. Peotter’s bicycling has been limited to recreation for this reason, but with an electric assist, Peotter anticipates being able to commute on one as well. As the coordinator of climate-smart activities in New Paltz, Peotter is also aware of how much of the local greenhouse gases come from driving around, including for short errands. Authorizing the use of these bicycles will expand options for residents trying to do their part of the planet and future generations of life upon it.
Support for the other road users
During last week’s meeting, council members passed a resolution in support of the “crash victim rights and safety act,” which is actually a package of eight different state bills intended to improve safety for those using roads without a motor vehicle. If passed into law, the changes would make it easier to obtain an accident report, require transportation officials to incorporate complete-street principles into more projects, allow municipal leaders to lower speed limits to 25 mph without asking permission and create a three-foot passing buffer around bicyclist and others not in cars to protect them from encroachment by their motorized peers, among others.