Lappin Bill Would Make E-Bike Riding Twice as Pricey as Killing With a Car

Is it worse to ride an electric bike than to kill someone with a car? If a bill by City Council Member Jessica Lappin becomes law, it will be.

Jessica Lappin, Liz Krueger and supporters outside City Hall Tuesday. Photo: Jake Dobkin/Gothamist

On Tuesday, Lappin announced legislation that would raise the fine for riding an electric-assisted bike to $1000. Though the bikes are already illegal, and the current fine is $500 — a hefty sum for many New Yorkers, much less the delivery workers targeted by the bill — Lappin believes a stiffer financial penalty is in order.

”They are a nightmare for pedestrians,” said Lappin, joined by state Senator Liz Krueger on the steps of City Hall. ”My office receives constant complaints about them riding on the sidewalks, traveling opposite traffic, running red lights, just being reckless and dangerous.” Said Krueger: “Who will think of the mothers pushing carriages who are at risk for their lives?”

The bill also got the backing of David Pollack, executive director of a medallion licensing group called the Committee for Taxi Safety. According to Gothamist, Pollack called the bikes a “menace to little children” and a “menace to society.” Pollack apparently got through the presser without his pants actually bursting into flame.

Which leads to our point. Law-breaking by electric bike riders may be a problem in Lappin’s Upper East Side district. If so, it’s a problem that has yet to be quantified. NYPD doesn’t collect data on e-bike summonses or crashes, and other than unsubstantiated anecdotes, the only supporting evidence presented for the bill is a constituent opinion poll conducted by Lappin’s office.

We do know that in Lappin’s district, 29 pedestrians and six cyclists were killed by drivers between 1995 and 2009, while motorists injured 3,463 pedestrians and 974 cyclists during the same time span, according to DMV data compiled by Transportation Alternatives’ CrashStat. We know that $1000 rivals or exceeds the fines for many moving violations, including speeding and failure to yield. And we know that in the rare instance when punishment is administered at all, the prevailing penalty for a driver who fatally runs down a pedestrian is $500.

So by all means, let’s get a handle on the e-bike nuisance. But let’s also get our priorities straight.

  • Anonymous

    I seem to pass E-bikes all the time when I ride.  I doubt they are any more dangerous than all bikes.  If they make it easier for people to ride a bike we should make petal assist bikes legal in new york.

  • New Yorker

    Oh, for f#ck sake, Upper East Siders. Have you troglodytes bothered to take a real look at what’s actually happening on your neighborhood streets and avenues? Your community’s public spaces are choked with honking, gridlocked, exhaust-spewing motor vehicle traffic, your neighbors are constantly being run over, maimed and killed by cars and trucks, and quality of life is vastly diminished. E-bikes are the least of your problems.

  • Andrew

    This bill is kind of racist, yeah?

  • Joe R.

    This will all be moot when Senate Bill 1357A passes:

    Don’t they have any REAL problems to deal with on the UES, such as the large numbers motor vehicles there kill and injure each year?

  • By the numbers

    Man oh man am I going to miss Bloomberg’s data-driven approach to city management and legislation after he’s gone.

  • Streetsman

    The penalty for riding an electric bicycle cannot be more than speeding, running a red light, or driving without a license. It just cannot. The infraction is far less serious and the danger far less severe. You want to make the fine for running a red light $4,000? Now you’re talking. But just because someone’s bike has a battery pack on it doesn’t make them a target for severe punishment. I mean, this is a space-saving carbon-friendly fully legitimate mode of transportation in some other countries, to the tune of 100 million units:,8599,1904334,00.html. And the lines between bike, ebike, and moped can be so blurry (all three have two wheels and are capable of speeds approaching or exceeding the NYC legal limit) that making distinctly different regulations for any one seems like tomfoolery. Surely we can figure out how to accommodate them in New York. And then you realize that once again what you are looking at here is yet another in a long and frustrating list of legislative attempts to compensate for the fact that the NYPD simply does not adequately enforce the existing traffic regulations.

  • Anonymous

    It is a perfectly good type of hybrid vehicle, driven mostly by minorities. It must be stopped!! Only ride things that spew blue smoke!

  • Anonymous

    I don’t get it.
    I mean I understand that many of the ebike riders (read delivery men) have a habit of engaging in illegal and dangerous activities such as salmoning, riding ninja, riding on sidewalks and running red lights.  But why crack down on the bikes and not the behavior?

  • Joe R.

    I have another suggestion for Jessica Lappin-since this seems to be mostly an Upper East Side problem, how about just making e-bikes illegal in the Upper East Side, and leave the rest of the city alone? I’m so sick and tired of Manhattan-centric ideas like this which make things miserably for those of us in the outer boroughs. Same line of thought goes for any cycling “crackdowns”.  Do what you want in your own neighborhood, keep this stupidity out of mine.

  • Anonymous

    If I controlled the Word on the Street box, it would feature this from @2e41801649b679a89dc1b0fcd1e68cec:disqus :

    The penalty for riding an electric bicycle cannot be more than speeding, running a red light, or driving without a license. It just cannot. The infraction is far less serious and the danger far less severe. You want to make the fine for running a red light $4,000? Now you’re talking. 

    Just quoting, because sometimes clicking “Like” just isn’t enough.

  • JamesR

    Is it just me or is Lappin building up a reputation as one of the city’s most high-handed and reactive politicos? I’m just thinking back to how she grilled JSK during the hearing with DOT over bike lanes last year. Talk about misplaced priorities.

  • Anonymous

    e-bikes are illegal in NYC? how? why?

  • Joe R.

    If I to guess, @0725e26de8afcbf0a72ccf98de3fb783:disqus , I’d say Lappin’s priorities are shaped by her constituents. At the risk of stereotyping, I’d guess much of her constituency (or at least the most vocal part), are 1%ers who get around in personal cars or limos. Those pesky electric bikes are just another thing getting in their way.

  • Ty

    ”My office receives constant complaints about them riding on the
    sidewalks, traveling opposite traffic, running red lights, just being
    reckless and dangerous.”

    This has NOTHING to do with “e” anything… this is the non-enforcement (or even any attempts at education) by the NYPD when it comes to the delivery guys.  They all seem to ride — electric or not — against traffic On Purpose.  Intentionally.  The preferred direction.

    This has nothing to do with the electric motor.

    Lappin is an idiot.  How about call for enforcement and education to stop the problem?  Why would changing the fine make the NYPD do anything differently?!?!?!?

  • Lappin spoke rather eloquently at the recent City Council Hearing on NYPD Crash Investigations (or lack thereof) and has a pretty good record on livable street issues. I think this bill of hers is well intentioned but simply way off the mark, addressing symptoms but not the disease. As many commentators below have noted… its an enforcement issue more than anything. And if you’re levying a fine to really make a difference, target the business owners that let their employees ride recklessly whether or not its a bike, an e-bike, or an SUV… not just the guys & girls working for tips.

  • Anonymous

    This is just so offensive to livable streets advocates.  Really, e-bikes?   They have a presser for that?  $1,000 fine to bring me my moo goo gai pan.  It allows delivery guys to make more deliveries and at further distances than otherwise.  That’s something to support!  And if they violate the laws, then ticket them!

    Can we get AALDEF on this?  This is straight up targeted at chinese restaurant owners. 

  • I don’t get it either. If eBikes are illegal in New York City then why doesn’t the City confiscate them instead of fining them $1000? Delivery guys on eBikes ride rampant through the Village. Just yesterday I saw a guy run the red on Houston Street forcing traffic to stop for him. He had so many bags of food he probably couldn’t find the brake. Even so, this seems more like a ploy to raise City funds, and the cost ofTake-Out, than any kind of real solution.

  • Biker

    People die from these bicycles, too. Comments below need to know that this is much easier to address than the car crashes because they are per se illegal.

    Changing the fine DOES change enforcement because people are less likely to be repeat offenders. At least be happy that the legislators are trying to do SOMETHING even if the mayor is not.

    Bikers in NYC seem so entitled. You all need to get over yourselves and stop pretending like illegal bicycling is not dangerous.

  • fj

    Should be worrying about greatly limiting and eventually eliminating cars from the city. 

    What part of climate change don’t they understand?

    Embarrassing ignorance.

    Dopey political moves.

  • vnm

    The problem is that legislators can’t control enforcement. They can only control the level of fines. Only the NYPD can control enforcement.

    So if legislators suddenly really want something, as here, they can’t do the right thing and step up ticketing of the behavior. They can only push for a change in the fine structure.

    I actually didn’t realize e-bikes were illegal. They’re completely ubiquitous. How can they be illegal? And why should they be illegal per se anyway? Motorcycles are legal. Cars are legal. A tiny little e-engine is illegal?

    @9e2d2e0266f6df2fbaa67dbff704aa20:disqus Did you read the part of the post or the comments where everyone agrees that unsafe behavior should be eliminated? The entire point of this whole thing is that unsafe behavior of motorists is much more unsafe … yet they get a free pass.

  • Eric

    If only I had a nickel for every complaint about ‘almost’ getting hit by a cyclist, and a thousand dollars for every pedestrian killed by a truck going in reverse in the UES and the UWS.

  • ML

    Enforcement? Great idea. How about some sensible enforcement? Any? A tiny bit? Encountered three heavy tire ebikes yesterday on the Hudson Greenway during  Monday’s commute. They were flying.Though maybe that’s progress. During various days last month saw four of five small engine motorcycles on the path,

  • Alavinio

    It is clearly dangerous to negotiate the city streets. Adherance to traffic laws is the issue, not the method of transportation. This is equally applicable to pedestrians, cyclists, and motor vehicles. Any method of travel that reduces congestion, pollution, reliance on oil and enhances fitness must be considered. If you are going to be afraid consider the aforementioned. There is no voodoo in a small electric motor, only a world of alternatives.

  • Cberthet

    I agree with whomever says they should confiscate the bike since they are illegal. IN Hell’s kitchen, very very far from the Upper East side, these bikes have completely taken over our sidewalks: I am talking about 8 or 10 parked in front of bodegas… and guess how they got there ? by motoring on the sidewalk! 

    Bicyclists and pedestrians are allied in favoring people powered transportation. Bikes with motors are the first step toward motorcycle, Hells Angels and SUVs.  

    In Europe, the majority of pedestrian injuries and fatalities are due to motorcycles , small and large . Lets keep these things illegal . 

  • nice share very helpfull

  • Guest

    E bikes should be LEGAL!!!   They allow quicker transportation to people that may not have any other vehicle available to them.

    Yes, ticket them if they are breaking traffic laws, but the are great Green Transportation Alternatives!!

    They are defined as bicycles, so why should they be outlawed, while other bikes are not.

    It is the action that should be targeted and not the vehicle!

    You can carry a gun legally (if you have the permit ) but can not ride an e-bike??  Which really has a greater chance of injuring someone??


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