Let’s Get Serious About E-Bike Legislation

 Let’s Get Serious About E-Bike Legislation

By NYC Councilwoman Joann Ariola & Col. Thomas P. Sullivan, Candidate for NYS Assembly

We’ve all experienced it. Whether it’s during a stroll on the boardwalk, crossing at an intersection in Manhattan, or parking on the street in Brooklyn, we’ve all witnessed reckless e-bike riders barreling towards us, forcing us to dive off to safety to avoid being run down. For some of the more unlucky among us, there have even been injuries from e-bike collisions, and each and every year it seems that more and more of these devices are hitting our streets. And as their numbers grow, so too do the many problems that come with them – fires, reckless driving, collisions, and more.

Registration is one of the easiest ways that we can get a handle on the citywide e-bike issue. We need to register our cars – why not register e-bikes? They do have a motor, albeit an electric one, after all. Registering e-bikes in a similar way that we register automobiles would allow our law enforcement personnel to better keep track of who is on the streets, and would thus enable them to track down and prosecute reckless riders. As many of us know, reckless e-bike driving is a major problem in this city, and both of us agree that illegally operated, reckless operators openly flaunting our traffic laws must be held accountable. Registration is the first step towards this accountability.

E-bikes especially pose a risk to those on the boardwalk. The boardwalk was meant for pedestrians; people walking their dog, taking a morning jog, or traveling to the beach. Unfortunately, we’ve seen more and more e-bikes riding on the boardwalk each year, some of which can reach up to 30+ mph. That, along with their reckless maneuvering, could result in injury or worse.

To address the issue of unregistered e-bikes being driven recklessly, it is imperative to also implement stringent measures aimed at ensuring public safety alongside the new registration requirements. Confiscating unregistered e-bikes operated in a dangerous manner, like those speeding down the boardwalk, would be a proactive step in deterring irresponsible riding behavior. Additionally, imposing fines on operators of such vehicles serves as both a punitive measure and a financial deterrent, reinforcing the importance of adhering to traffic regulations. By coupling the confiscation of unregistered e-bikes with monetary penalties, authorities can send a clear message that the enforcement of rules surrounding e-bike usage is a top priority for public safety. This approach not only encourages compliance with registration requirements, but also discourages the hazardous riding practices that can pose risks to both e-bike operators and the general public.

Registration would also allow the city to ensure that New York City’s e-bikes are using safe, regulated lithium-ion batteries to propel them as well. Just recently, after a press conference following a fatal, lithium-ion battery related fire that claimed three lives in Brooklyn, FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh told reporters that lithium-ion batteries “defy almost everything that we say about fire safety,” adding “normally, when we buy something online, we do not think it’s going to burst into flames. You assume it’s safe.” Through a proper inspection, we can help to make that assumption of safety into a guarantee. This year alone, lithium-ion batteries claimed 17 lives, caused 239 fires, and left 124 New Yorkers injured. A mandatory inspection and registration can go a long way towards preventing numbers like these in the future.

This is not just our personal thoughts on the issue either. The Columbia University Climate School published an article this past summer, in which noted academic Steven Cohen – a public management and environmental policy professor at Columbia University since 1981 and former director of Columbia’s Earth Institute – explained that “even approved batteries can be damaged, so we need to check them both upon purchase and periodically,” and as such an inspection should be conducted regularly – every couple of years, like a car, for example. “To keep costs low, the FDNY can be the body that inspects e-bikes, and it could be done at the city’s firehouses which are conveniently located throughout the city,” Cohen added. “Since the Fire Department must deal with the damage caused by faulty batteries, they should be highly motivated to ensure that inspections are rigorous.” This is certainly an interesting idea that is worth pursuing further.

In addition to advocating for registration and regular inspections, we must also emphasize the importance of public awareness and education on this issue as well. A comprehensive public campaign can inform both e-bike riders and the general public about the rules, regulations, and safety measures associated with e-bike usage. By creating a widespread understanding of the potential risks of reckless e-bike riding, the importance of adhering to traffic laws, and the significance of using approved and regulated batteries, we can contribute to fostering a safer urban environment. Public education initiatives can be conducted through various channels, including social media, community events, and collaboration with local schools and institutions.

We all want a safe community, and ultimately, that means getting serious about e bikes. These bikes can pose a risk to the people in our community, and we need to recognize that. By limiting where they can ride, and setting common sense safety standards, Rockaway and our city will be safer for all.


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