Shared, electric vehicles are (likely) coming
In 2019, the New York State Legislature passed legislation to legalize electric scooters and electric bicycles across the state. If Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signs the bill, it will go into effect in 2020. The legislation would allow riders who are 16 years old or older to operate an electric scooter or electric bicycle at speeds not to exceed 20 miles per hour. However, local governments reserve the right to prohibit these vehicles. Additionally, electric vehicles could not be operated on pedestrian sidewalks unless permitted by the local government, and local governments would have control over the companies permitted to offer shared vehicles. If the legislation goes into effect, electric scooters and bicycles will be prohibited in Manhattan, but allowed in the other four boroughs of New York City.
You also may soon be able to rent electric scooters to zip around, but that does not mean your insurance would cover these vehicles. If you fall off the scooter, your personal health insurance would cover any injury from the fall, but only your injury.
The issues arise from accident insurance. Most of the companies renting electric bicycles and scooters include language in the user agreement that relieve the company of liability if the rider causes an injury to another person or vehicle. Companies may insist they have liability coverage for these situations, but have no guarantee they will cover the rider. Meanwhile, when the personal liability coverage on your homeowners insurance policy provides accident coverage for operation of a traditional bicycle, it excludes coverage for any vehicle with a motor. Automobile insurance may provide coverage when you rent a vehicle, but limits the coverage only to vehicles with four wheels. This gap of coverage leaves an electric scooter or electric bicycle rider exposed in the event of an accident involving another person or vehicle.
Many insurance carriers do provide broader coverage that may include electric scooters and other recreational vehicles (e.g., in an umbrella or excess policy). If you plan to ride one of these motor-powered vehicles, you should talk to us to ensure you have the proper coverage in place to ensure a fun ride does not turn into an expensive one.