Council’s E-Bike Obsession: Like Trying to Drain the Ocean With a Thimble

Last Thursday, City Council members held another press event on electric bikes. A bill introduced by Dan Garodnick would double the fine for riding an e-bike on the sidewalk from $100 to $200, according to a DNAinfo report, while the penalty for running a red light would go as high as $900.

While City Council members obsess over electric bikes, drivers are still crashing into people and buildings. Photo: DNAinfo

The city does not keep data on electric bike summonses or crashes. So like another bill from Jessica Lappin, introduced in February, the Garodnick proposal rests on anecdotes and complaints.

“There are a lot of seniors in this neighborhood,” said McCallian, a Community Board 2 member. “In one case a senior was knocked out of her wheelchair.”

Sunnyside residents and elected officials said that they had seen a significant increase in the number of those bikes in the neighborhood in the past few months.

“They just zoom by,” said another resident Leonore Lanzillotti. “And no one expects that on the sidewalk.”

Local councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who is one of the bill’s sponsors, said that the e-bikes “have become an epidemic of reckless driving” in his district, which includes Sunnyside, Long Island City and Woodside.

Residents in several neighborhoods are clearly distressed by sidewalk e-bike riders, and no one should expect electeds to ignore their safety concerns. But the problem here is much bigger than electric bikes.

For perspective’s sake, here is a sampling of documented, quantifiable four-wheeled vehicle violence that has taken place just since last Thursday’s e-bike presser: Two drivers collided with sufficient force to send one vehicle through the wall of a Long Island City building; a cabbie struck an 87-year-old woman outside Port Authority, putting the victim in the hospital; a nanny barely saved herself and her 4-year-old charge from being crushed by a sociopath who stole an SUV and crashed it onto a sidewalk in Greenwich Village; and an 18-year-old cyclist and a 42-year-old pedestrian were slain within the span of an hour by two hit-and-run drivers in the Bronx.

In attaching higher fees to the misuse of a certain type of vehicle that (for whatever reason) is illegal in the first place, the City Council is trying to drain the ocean with a thimble. The problem, as always, is a general lack of enforcement. Sadly, dangerous drivers offer dozens of opportunities every day for council members to demand that NYPD institute much-needed reforms to reduce the carnage on city streets, beginning with the enforcement of existing traffic laws and full-scale investigations of crashes involving serious injury and death.

If council members want to put their appetite for media attention to its highest and best use, the next traffic safety presser will be at the site of the next horrendous traffic crash.

  • NM

    You know, Garodnick is usually pretty reasonable on transportation issues.  Maybe to have an impact on bike and traffic safety in this town on the most important issues, you need to be seen as ‘balanced’ toward bikes by ‘doing something’ when they cause a problem.  Anything that helps his credibility is probably good for bikes and safety in the long run. Still, strange move, Danny G.

  • Anonymous


    He’s representing his constituency.  Sure, his constituency is misguided but I don’t see any other motives at play. 

    Though, this is quite depressing in the whole.  Livable streets advocates can have all the facts in the world to support their claim

    (“(i) no, the pedestrian plaza will not lead to gridlock and here are the studies that show it . . . . (ii) no, the pedestrian plaza will increase property values and these are the studies that show it . . . .(iii)  no, that bike lane will actually lead to safer streets because it acts as a traffic calming mechanism and here are the studies that show it. )

    but even then, it’s like pulling teeth, to get any accommodations whatsoever (like the 34th street BRT and redesign . . . like, 34th street is a frickin disaster . . . but we cannot fix it because people don’t want their water deliveries disrupted).

    Whereas, in this instance, a bunch of kvetching bubbies can get prominent council members to snap at attention and pass, what is, truly oppressive and onerous laws, which benefit nobody.  If e-bikers behave poorly, then give them tickets.  But $900?!?!?!  Are we going to ban cars because people keep driving them into buildings? 

    This law is a waste and it’s actually a net loss for everyone (less tips for delivery guys, colder food for people, massive fines for little safety benefit, cutting off a way where less physically fit people can engage in exercise–because it still requires work even with the small motor, prohibiting a green form of transportation) since there aren’t any appreciable safety benefits here. 

  • Joe R.

    How about they just have the fine and ban on e-bikes apply in their district and leave the rest of us alone? I’m so tired of nonsense like this from districts full of 1%ers with no real problems in life spreading to the entire city.

  • fj

    they should legalize ebikes in nys asap

  • fj

    During a Tour de Sol competition in Albany, NY several year back an ebike (optibike) non-elite cyclist did 100 miles in hours. 

    This starts to make cycling much more practical for a much larger range of trips.

  • fj

    correction 100 miles in 3 hours

  • fj

    Ebikes being illegal in NYS is equivalent to making solar illegal since ebikes are near net zero vehicles and further cements fossil fuel’s monopoly of this state’s roads.

  • Station44025

    This is a perfect combination of irrational, counterproductive, anti environmental, and racist.

    To the point below about credibility gleaned from “doing something,” I think that going along with irrational policies only transfers credibility from the rational people and deposits it in the account of the irrational.

  • fj — by my eye, it looks like the ebikes have mostly replaced regular old bicycle bikes. 

  • Jane Lorence

    Nice blog. Thanks for sharing such a nice blog.

    Aseako Electric Bicycle


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