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What New York's e-bike law will mean to retailers

Published March 4, 2023

NEW YORK (BRAIN) — Heather Mason is advising bike shops here to sell off any e-bikes that aren't certified to UL standards before a new local law takes effect. 

Mason, the president of the National Bicycle Dealers Association, notes that the legislation — which passed the City Council Thursday and is expected to be signed into law by Mayor Eric Adams — allows 180 days after enactment before it is enforced. After that, city officials can fine retailers up to $1,000 per SKU for selling e-bikes or batteries that don't meet the relevant UL standard. The legislation also bans the sale of used or re-built batteries.

"So that's like six months," Mason said Friday. "I'm telling dealers to adjust their inventory. I know this is going to create a hardship for our retailers, but (the regulation) is in the best interest of the future of e-bikes. It will allow growth in the category while keeping people safe. It's the right thing." Mason sent a letter to NBDA members on Friday in support of the law.

Industry group PeopleForBikes also supports the city law, although the group previously advocated for the adoption of a narrower UL standard than the UL 2849 standard the city legislation requires. 

“It is clear from our recent conversations in New York City and with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) that going forward, UL 2849 will be the testing standard that regulators and others look to for the drive systems powering electric bicycles sold in the U.S. market,” PeopleForBikes Counsel Matt Moore said in a press release Thursday. “As our members transition to this new safety standard, PeopleForBikes will continue to support them by advocating for measured approaches to broader adoption of UL 2849 to help minimize the impacts of this disruptive change.”

If Adams doesn’t sign the legislation, it automatically becomes local law after 30 days. If he vetoes it, which is unlikely, the Council can override it with a two-thirds vote. The legislation cleared the Council on a vote of 45 to one.

What’s available?

With at least a half year to sell through existing non-certified inventory in the city, the question now is: What certified e-bikes will be available for retailers and consumers when the grace period ends?

Labs accredited as National Recognized Test Lab designated by OSHA and with UL 2849, UL 2272, and UL 2271 in the scope of their recognition can test to the UL standard. There’s no requirement that the labs or the brands publish a list of certified models, although some labs do.  UL Solutions, the test lab business unit associated with the nonprofit standards organization, has certified 14-bike systems to UL2849

According to a database maintained by the NBDA, Bosch, Brose and Promovec systems are certified to the standard (Promovec said all future products will be UL certified but products that are currently sold in the U.S. are not). The NBDA database only lists four bike brands so far as certified the standard (OKAI, Alta’s Diamondback and iZip brands, and Revi Bikes). The database is now viewable by non-NBDA members at

However, Trek released a statement on its dealer website this week clarifying that all its e-bikes — with four different motor systems — are certified to UL 2849. PON-owned Cannondale and Gazelle use Bosch systems that meet the standard.

The exceptions include some of the biggest brands in the market: Specialized, Giant, Pedego, and Rad Power. None of those brands appears to offer UL 2849 bikes, although it’s likely they are each working quickly to get some models certified. Rad Power, Pedego and Specialized each have retail locations in New York City.

Not necessarily pricy

While certification has the reputation for being expensive, several brands are selling bikes at $1,000 or less that are certified to UL 2849. They include models from Velotric and Totem.

I think dealers will still be able to offer well-priced certified bikes,” Mason said. 

According to its seller guidelines, Amazon requires e-bikes sold on its site to be certified to meet UL 2849. However, it’s not clear from listings that all e-bikes offered there meet the standard. The seller guidelines specify that Amazon can ask for proof of certification at any time, but the retailer does not necessarily demand to see certification before bikes are listed. 

'This will basically shut them down’

E-bike retailer Propel Bikes, which has a store in Brooklyn and another in Long Beach, California, is well prepared for the new law to take effect. Store founder Chris Nolte has sold UL-certified bikes exclusively for the last two years. "Knowing New York City and how it was built, I was just not comfortable (with non-certified bikes)," Nolte said. "It's one thing bringing a bike into your garage, but what it you are bringing it into an apartment with your family and hundreds of other families in the same building?"

Nolte said the new regulations will have a huge impact on the sellers of thousands of low-cost e-bikes used by food delivery workers in the city.

“The rest of the country doesn’t know or understand what it’s like here. We’re talking about tens of thousands of bikes on the streets that you don’t see in California or other places. All those shops selling those bikes, this will basically shut them down,” Nolte said. 

The legislation does not outlaw owning or using a non-certified e-bike, so while it may shut down some retailers, the users of low-priced non-certified e-bikes can still go out of state to buy the bikes and batteries. It's also unclear how the city could regulate online D2C sales. 

Charlie McCorkell, owner of the three-store chain Bicycle Habitat, found selling e-bikes in the city a challenge even before the City Council's latest move. Landlords have banned him from having e-bikes or batteries in some of his stores and storage spaces because of perceived fire danger. He said some of his long-term customers are wary of e-bikes because of fire danger and/or because their landlords don’t allow the bikes in their homes. E-bikes currently account for about 7% of Bicycle Habitat’s business. He sells brands including Specialized, Giant, Yuba and Civia.

“Banning the sale/rental of non-UL certified e-bikes will throw a wrench into the e-bike business in NYC,” McCorkell said in an email to BRAIN.

McCorkell said it’s not clear how the new regulations will be enforced. The FDNY already cited five stores in Manhattan last week for fire code violations regarding e-mobility devices. 

“If the bills are signed then the agencies will need to formulate regulations and an enforcement approach. They may have to go after Amazon, the main source of crap e-bikes and batteries,” he said. “The city has many regulations that are never enforced. I think the FDNY will add this item to their store visits,” he said.

McCorkell said that to improve fire safety in the city, the federal government will need to enforce safety regulations at the import level. 

McCorkell also noted that while there are thousands of delivery workers using e-bikes in New York, many of their bikes are not even e-bikes according to federal standards. Some are too fast, or lack pedals. Some are even gas-powered. 

“My best guess is fewer than 40% are e-bikes under the law and this number would easily be cut by 80% (or more) if you eliminated throttle bikes capable of going over 20 mph,” he said.

New York is trend setter

FDNY is the largest and best-funded fire department in the country and has the resources to investigate fires and develop regulations. Other cities and states often adopt New York regulations eventually, noted Ibrahim Jilani, UL Solutions' Director & Global Industry Leader. He said it's happened with products like extension cords, Christmas lights, and portable heaters.

"This (the New York regulation) will help the industry," Jilani told BRAIN on Friday. He noted that the UL 2849 standard development started 10 years ago and was first published three years ago. Representatives from most of the major U.S. brands were involved in its development. "This hasn’t been done in a back alley room with no one paying attention," he said. "Many producers were involved in it, including members of the electric bike committee of PeopleForBikes," he said. 

FDNY began cracking down on some retailers even before the law's passage.
Topics associated with this article: Electric bike

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