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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 on 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.

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