The council woman who represents the Upper East Side will introduce a measure today that will impose greater penalties on people –most
of them restaurant delivery men–who ride electric bikes in New York.
“My office constantly receives complaints about electric delivery bikes speeding down our crowded streets and sidewalks,” said Council Member Jessica Lappin whose district 5 covers Roosevelt Island and parts of the Upper East Side.
“They travel at high speeds and are incredibly dangerous. We need higher fines and better enforcement, which should make pedestrians safer in their own neighborhoods.”
Lappin will be introducing a motion in the City Council today, Wednesday to consider the idea of increasing the penalty for operating an electric bicycle from $500 where it currently is under city law, to $1,000, and to increase the amount of enforcement.
” Motorized bikes can travel up to 30 miles an hour, and there have been numerous reports of them breaking traffic laws, including riding on sidewalks and going the wrong way down one-way streets,” said a statement from her office.
Motorized bicycles are also illegal under New York State Law, because they cannot be registered, but must be registered in order to be used, a Catch-22 that the state admitted they still had not resolved when we first brought this whole issue to the attention of New Yorkers last June.
“These vehicles are heavier than normal bicycles, they have motors that can propel them up to 30 miles an hour, and they’re used to make deliveries in a rush,” said State Senator Liz Krueger who backs Lappin’s proposal.
Lappin cites a study that her office conducted in which 72 percent of 1,305 constituents from her district said they were either “hit or almost hit” by a delivery bicyclist.
The study however is deeply flawed because it fails to distinguish between those who have been hit–a real threat–and those who have had close calls, which is always reliant on a subjective standard of measurement.
The study also fails to ask how many people have been hit or “almost hit” by motorists in the district, a number which is sure to be far greater.
Another flaw in the district’s analysis is distinguishing between types of e-bikes and indeed, even types of bicycles, since there is no indication that respondents were asked if they could even tell the difference between electric scooters–big wheeled, and lower profile scooters with large hubs, capable of going 30 mph or more, versus electric assist bicycles that can only go about 20 mph and are much thinner and smaller and more closely resembling typical bicycles.
But clearly Lappin is on to something: even cyclists agree with great vigor, that these miscreants on e-bicycles–most of them going the wrong way, on sidewalks, and causing near hits, are riding e-scooters and giving cyclists a bad name. In our full coverage on this issue last June, we interviewed scores of cyclists who are dismayed at the substantial growth of these users, and how dangerously they appear to be riding.
A small irony would be missed if we did not point out Lappin’s key constituent–the aging person who fears bicycles, would benefit
substantially from having electric-assist bicycles and tricycles of their own to get them to and from the shopping areas closer to Lexington and Madison Avenues. But since most likely perceive the entire cycling experience as far too dangerous around motorists, the district is far from acheiving this kind of apotheosis.
Though the survey points to bad behavior by e-scooter drivers, the proposed legislation offers little in the way of making the NYPD enforce city and state laws–which to date, they haven’t been doing. Lappin’s proposed changes to city law hint at the lack of enforcement, but hardly indicate the depth of that deficiency, which is really the problem.
A Freedom of Information Request that we submitted multiple times in 2011 to the department of information for the number of tickets issued to e-bicyclists, and the number of e-scooters impounded by the NYPD (which is the only legal response to an illegal e-scooter use,) were never answered. In the absence of numbers we can only surmise that there is something really amiss at the NYPD.
Lappin was joined by several community leaders, council members and state assembly members who are supporting her measure.
“The illegal use of bicycles of all kinds continues to be one of the largest quality of life complaints that Community Board 8 receives,” said Community Board 8 Chair Nicholas Viest. His board is advocating that the state introduce new legislation to allow e-scooters by treating them as motorized vehicles.
At least if that were accomplished, e-scooters would technically not be allowed in bicycle lanes, but once again, enforcement is likely to be little to none, and such a move foretells cyclists sharing what little skimpy, undefined and indefinite bike lanes they have now with licensed e-scooters as they do now.
Lappin also received support from Councilman Dan Garodnick, whose District 4 stretches from East 96th Street bordering Central Park, down to portions of the far east side on 14th Street and New York State Assembly Members Micah Kellner and Dan Quart.
“Preserving the safety of community members on our sidewalks is a critical public safety issue,” said Assembly Member Dan Quart in a statement. “Motorized vehicles have no place on the sidewalk and we should increase the fine for operating these dangerous electric bikes. I join with Councilwoman Lappin and call for the swift passage of her legislation.”
If Lappin’s measure becomes adopted by the City Council, it will either be assigned to a committe such as transportation to be debated, and to be opened for public hearings, said Michelle Feldman a spokeswoman for Lappin.
“Until these vehicles are regulated and we know their drivers are properly trained, we need to step up enforcement and protect our neighborhoods’ residents,” said Krueger.