Mayor to E-Bike/E-Scooter Supporters: Power Down! [Updated]

The city is not so keen on legalizing the new 'micro-mobility' fads.

DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, in red. To her right are NYPD Transportation Chief Thomas Chan and Legislative Affairs Director Oleg Chernyavsky. Photo: David Meyer
DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, in red. To her right are NYPD Transportation Chief Thomas Chan and Legislative Affairs Director Oleg Chernyavsky. Photo: David Meyer

Mayor de Blasio does not support e-bike and e-scooter legalization at this time, his transportation commissioner testified Wednesday at the kickoff of a debate on several City Council bills that would encourage both forms of mobility.

“The city’s concern with these throttle e-bikes has always been their unregulated, illegal nature and particularly their speeds and irresponsible use by some,” Department of Transportation  Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said at Wednesday’s hearing, which centered on four e-bike and e-scooter bills. “Should state action provide the ability for localities to authorize these devices, we’d be open to a conversation with the council about whether to allow them here in New York City.”

Trottenberg was referring to a proposal by Gov. Cuomo to allow cities to decide for themselves whether to legalize the devices — but Trottenberg did not provide any insight into whether the mayor would back the Council’s bid to go ahead and do just that.

Delivery worker Jinhua Li wants e-bikes legalized. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
Delivery worker Jinhua Li wants e-bikes legalized. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

“We are still in the early stages of evaluating how [e-scooters] operate in urban areas,” she said of e-scooters, adding that her agency was in conversation with leaders of other cities where scooters are in operation. She said it wasn’t clear yet that e-scooter trips were actually replacing car trips — or that the hardware was even up-to-par.

“Talking to other cities, these things are pretty disposal. They last between a month and two months,” Trottenberg warned.

The Council’s Transportation Committee Chairman Ydanis Rodriguez countered that he believes the city has the right to legalize e-bikes and e-scooters regardless of the state proposal.

In terms of e-bikes, Trottenberg suggested that the mayor remains concerned by their supposed negative safety impacts — though the city has never produced any data that the devices pose more of a danger to pedestrians than regular bikes.

The mayor used that safety concern to justify his crackdown on the e-bikes, announced in October 2017. In 2018, NYPD increased its confiscations of e-bikes by 20 percent, according to Police Transportation Chief Thomas Chan. Each throttled-powered e-bike is worth around $1,800, and confiscations and tickets can up to well over $1,000 for the city’s delivery workforce. More than 1,200 were confiscated last year.

City Council proponents of e-bike legalization pushed back on the assertion that either e-bikes or e-scooters are dangerous. Trottenberg claimed that three people have been killed riding e-scooters already here — which garnered pushback from Council Member Fernando Cabrera, a sponsor of the e-scooter legalization bill.

“They don’t tend to cause injuries to others,” Cabrera told Trottenberg and NYPD officials testifying by her side. “They don’t tend to cause injuries to others. Can we agree to that, that e-scooters are not known to cause injuries?”

His statement was met with jeers from some members of the audience.

“I think it may be too early to say,” said NYPD Legislative Affairs Director Oleg Chernyavsky. “We don’t really disaggregate the data.”

Update: An earlier version said that Trottenberg claimed that two people had died on scooters. The DOT later issued a statement claiming it is three.

  • Elizabeth F

    You don’t need a degree to disable pollution controls on your car either. But most people do not. Especially not delivery workers, who are 95% of Arrow’s business. These are hardworking folks with little free time, who want their bike to “just work.” They don’t have the time or inclination to hot-rod their e-bike. Whatever Arrow delivers to them is what they will use.

  • Elizabeth F

    Because speeds are already limited to 20mph. Motor assist speed cuts out at 20mph. That doesn’t mean the bike never goes faster. Maybe there’s a valid technical issue that the Arrow motor cuts out slightly too fast. But that doesn’t change the fact that, basically, the Arrow I used for many years was designed and built as a conforming Class 2 e-bike — and was also able to function as a legal Class 1 e-bike.

    Also, my e-bike went 22mph because I pedaled. If you don’t pedal, it doesn’t go as fast. I know that for a fact, as I’d pass people doing throttle-only on the same model.

  • Altered Beast ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    hard work? yeah when they were on regular bikes. Do you think you are doing hard work when you are on your arrow Ebike?

  • Elizabeth F

    Don’t be a jerk. If you think restaurant delivery is all fun and peaches, why don’t you try it for a while?

    How long do YOU ride your manual bike for every day on your commute? How would you feel if you rode it 10 hours? Every day?

  • Altered Beast ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    I ride 17 miles a day manually 8.5m each way every day, almost 350 days of the year in rain. I wouldn’t do restaurant work. I would get an education because one day taxis and delivery work will be automated.

  • Elizabeth F

    Now you really are being a jerk. A privileged one at that.

    In any case… it looks like you spend about 1hr/day riding your bike, vs. the 10hr spent by delivery workers.

  • Altered Beast ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    more like 2.5 hours. And that’s more work than riding a ebike that you don’t pedal. It’s basically sitting on a chair that’s moving.

  • Elizabeth F

    So… you ride 17 miles in 2.5 hours, for a speed of 6.8mph. Seems really slow to me for someone who bikes every day. You’re certainly not expending much energy at that speed.

    Anyway, it’s amazing that you are such an expert on all things e-bike, even though you apparently have never tried one even once.

  • Altered Beast ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    i live in super hilly areas, the second highest peak and the first highest peak and the third highest peak in brooklyn I have to traverse and I have to go over the bridge. it would be a piece of cake if it were all flatlands.
    I could ride faster but that’s the non sweat speed for going over hills. I rid the citibike pedal assist once and it was perfect. That’s the kind of ebike people need to be on. I used to be on the side of ebikers but after they started hitting me and cutting me off and riding ridiculously then I’m against anything that’s going over 20mph.

  • Elizabeth F

    Sorry, nothing in Brooklyn counts as a “super hilly area.” Look at the Bronx and Westchester for a “hilly area,” and Rockland County for a “super hilly area.” My commute to Manhattan is almost 4x as long as yours, and at least 4x as hilly.

    So… the crux of your argument seems to be that you don’t want e-bikes with motorized speed faster than 20mph. Very few people would disagree with you on that point, and NOBODY is trying to legalize e-bikes faster than 20mph. The fact that my old e-bike cruised at 22mph (when peadling) does not substantially change the situation.

  • Altered Beast ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    uhh. what are you talking about? you have obviously never ridden throughout brooklyn. Walt Whitman’s poem crossing the ferry notes”AMPLE HILLS” for a reason. You notice everything has HiLL or Slope in the title? cobble hill, park slope. boerum hill. the elevation level of my hill is almost san francisco esque with huge inclines.

  • Elizabeth F

    You’ve obviously never left Brooklyn. Go to the Bronx, Westchester and Rockalnd, and you’ll see what I mean.

  • Altered Beast ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    this is irrelevant to my argument.

  • Joe R.

    One of my rides from a few years ago in Queens:
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/21cda883c82bf1d0d2b1a239fb6417a8716bc01b65729862b5c706066918b88c.jpg

    Over 1000 feet of elevation change, and I still managed to maintain an overall average speed of 15.7 mph without becoming particularly sweaty. I’m scratching my head trying to understand how a “regular” cyclist can only average 6.8 mph. I could probably do better than that climbing Mont Ventoux.

  • Altered Beast ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    uhh. I said I didn’t want to sweat. you know that means? no sweat. I’m pretty sure you were sweating.

  • Joe R.

    The ride was in late October. Trust me, I wasn’t sweating. It was actually kind of a middling pace for me.

    I have no idea how I’d fare against you. I’m not in my best shape the last few years because I haven’t been riding regularly due to taking care of my mom. However, the rare times I get on a bike I’m still averaging somewhere in the 13s or 14s without really killing myself. If I didn’t have traffic lights or poor pavement I’d probably be averaging a few mph more. My record was 10 miles in 25 minutes back in my early 20s. I definitely did work up a sweat doing that. 🙂

  • Altered Beast ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    your max slope is 3.9% mine is 9-10% everyday with groceries and stuff. Sometimes I’ll race up the park slope hill with the cyclists with my baggage and even though they beat me at the end of the ride I can keep pace for 90% AND I ride ONLY only single speed. No gears. 42-16.

  • Joe R.

    Some of the streets north of Hillside Avenue are ~10%. My point is no ride in the city is only 10% upgrades. If a person rides to a destination and back, their net elevation gain is 0. They go down those hills after they go up. Hills impact riding speed to some extent, but not as much as you might think overall where there’s no net elevation gain.

    Why on earth would anyone ride a single speed? I have an 11-25 10-speed cassette in back, and a 42/53 chainring in front. My lowest gear is 42-25 which gets me up 10% grades at 9 or 10 mph. I normally can stay on the smaller chainring for most of my riding. 42-11 is good for up to about 26 mph at a not too high cadence, although I can comfortably do bursts well into the 30s in that gear. 53-11 is my “supercruise” gear which I can use if I either have a long downgrade or a strong tailwind. It lets me comfortably cruise at mid to high 30s.

    42-16 is way too high to comfortably climb lots of hills, and it limits your speed on the flats or downhills. At a comfortable cadence of maybe 90 RPM in a 42-16 gear all you can do is maybe 18 mph. Try a bike with gears. You’ll be a lot faster overall, and your legs will feel a lot better at the end of a ride.

  • Altered Beast ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    I ride a ss because I don’t like to maintain the derailleur and it’s simple. I don’t want to go fast in this city cause it takes too much concentration with all the cars and ebikes. I used to go fast alot even on a ss but I have to use the real streets with real car doors and people double parking and I have to use maximum concentration. if you go over 15mph on the real streets you have to be locked on cause one mistake and you are pancake. I’d rather have a meditative approach to riding. plus with my extra weight it really wouldn’t be good. so 8-15mph is good enough

  • Joe R.

    From my point of view going faster is safer, especially on streets with no bike lanes, because cars aren’t overtaking you as rapidly. I feel very vulnerable if I’m climbing a steep hill and can only go 10 or 12 mph. Sure, you have to watch for things like potholes, but you have to watch for those things at any speed. Another reason for going faster in this city is traffic lights. The faster you go, the fewer you hit. If I had the power to do so, I’d probably be going 25 to 35 mph most of the time. That would match car speeds on most of the streets I use.

    Honestly, to me you seem like the perfect candidate for an e-bike. You ride hilly terrain, and don’t want to get sweaty. You obviously have the time to take 2.5 hours for only a 17 mile round trip but lots of people don’t. An e-bike makes a commute feasible for these people which otherwise wouldn’t be. While I currently have no interest in getting an e-bike for myself (and wouldn’t even consider it until the legality was clearly up), I can see myself on one if the time ever comes I lack the stamina to ride 20 or 30 miles, or can no longer cruise at the speeds I do. I would get pedal assist because I want a helping hand, not for the bike to do all the work.

  • 00rodgee00

    so ban the bike and not punish the people?…

  • Altered Beast ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    I’m not worried about cars overtaking me, I’m worried about card doors which are the most dangerous things. if you go fast. I got doored like 3 times already. Also pedestrians who cross in the middle of the street who jump out of nowhere on their cellphones? how do you not see these people on your commute?

  • Altered Beast ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    no. ban ebikes that go over 20mph

  • Joe R.

    Easy way to avoid doors is to stay out of the door zone. I ride at least 5 feet from parked cars if there’s any chance a door will open. I got doored a few times when I first started riding but I quickly figured out how to avoid it.

    Also pedestrians who cross in the middle of the street who jump out of nowhere on their cellphones? how do you not see these people on your commute?

    First off, I don’t commute at all. I’ve worked at home since the early 1990s. Second, I don’t ride places or times where there are a lot of pedestrians. I try to ride after 10 PM because it’s a lot more pleasant. Nevertheless, I have ridden at other times, and avoiding pedestrians isn’t that hard. Again, you don’t ride right next to parked cars. You take the traffic lane. That gives you plenty of time to see pedestrians. Of course, if you take the traffic lane you have to more or less match motor traffic speed. Being able to go faster would be a big help in that regard.

    The real key to safe riding is to assume everyone will do the worst possible thing at the worst time. Assume that, and leave yourself an out in case it happens. I rarely have incidents. In fact, until October I went 22 years without a fall or other incident. What got me in October was broken concrete in a bus stop, combined with poor streetlighting which made me fail to notice the crack. Speed had nothing to do with the crash, either. I was at the end of a long uphill, only going 11 mph. In fact, if I had hit the crack at higher speeds, my tire likely wouldn’t have gotten wedged in as the momentum would have pulled it right out. Anyway, no serious injuries.

  • Joe R.

    The problem here isn’t the speed. Lots of riders on regular bikes go way over 20 mph. It’s the inconsiderate, dangerous riding these people engage in so they can make deliveries as fast as possible. The restaurants are partially at fault for using a business model which encourages this. I’m fine going after people for reckless riding, no matter what type of bike they’re using. However, I really think the restaurants should pay the fines, not the delivery people, because they’re the ones using a flawed business model.

  • Altered Beast ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    you don’t commute so why are you giving me advice, a daily commuter? your advice doesn’t hold water cause the lanes are narrow. there is no way to ride in the traffic lane safely as even if you were to go 32mph there would be a car that wants to overtake you and they can.

  • Joe R.

    Yes, if you take the lane there will at times be instances where motor traffic is faster but that’s not all the time, or even most of the time. In Manhattan rush hour traffic often moves at 20 mph or less. A cyclist can easily match that pace. Also, if you had gears on your bike you would be able to draft motor vehicles in the traffic lane, and go far faster than you could if you had to break your own wind. I’ve done that as well, sometimes drafting buses and trucks at speeds over 50 mph. However, you can’t do that with a single 42-16 gear. You would be peddling uncomfortably fast even going only 25 mph.

    I’m giving you the same advice lots of people would give you. It doesn’t matter if I commute or not. I have over 74,000 miles of riding under my belt, in all kinds of conditions, including rush hour traffic. Take the lane when possible. If not, stay at least 5 feet away from parked cars. Or if you can’t do that, cover your brake and carefully watch for parked cars where a driver is likely to exit. Those are usually cars which just parked. And keep in mind the capability to go higher speeds gives you options to stay safe, or get out of the way of traffic, which wouldn’t otherwise exist. There have been times I’ve avoiding disaster by accelerating away from it. Can’t do that if you’re already at your gearing-limited top speed.

  • motorock

    Crackdown based on no data whatsoever. Just based on this one white guy’s complaints & anecdotes:
    https://www.wnyc.org/story/peoples-guide-power-electric-bikes-edition/

    That itself should make everyone else vote in favor or ebikes. City has no data except the increase in confiscating these ebikes. Pretty sure the numbers are low or close to zero.

  • Joe R.

    That guy is a perfect example of a rich, white person with way too few problems and way too much time on his hands. Maybe he should be measuring the speed of his bowel movements instead of worrying about the speed of e-bikes.

  • maxmaxed

    Stop making it about race please, this is insulting.

  • maxmaxed

    Dude, I was riding a folding bike for a while and now I get folding e-bike, because I get tired. Guess what, I know what you mean – a-holes on e-bikes going over sidewalks, red lights etc etc. But most of the regular riders do the same. Most of the time I’m literally the only person waiting for green light. And regular bikes are also fast, especially if a-holes ride them.

  • maxmaxed

    You are wrong. You can go as fast as you can pedal, especially downhill. On pedal assist. The only difference with a regular bike – you don’t put any effort in going uphill.

  • maxmaxed

    In my opinion they should ENFORCE traffic rules in the first place. NYPD ignores that and instead just confiscated random ebikes. NYPD also breaks the law themselves and ignores bikelane parked cars. NYPD is a problem, not violators. If you stop enforcing law, people will rob, murder and rape left and right.

  • maxmaxed

    All people sweat differently. I sweat A LOT even with minor effort.

  • Joe R.

    I find I sweat less the more I ride. Better conditioning tends to make the body more efficient, hence less sweating.

  • Joe R.

    The NYPD does a lot of enforcing of traffic rules against bikes. The problem is they go after the wrong people, mostly those slow rolling red lights who are easy to catch. I’d rather they ignore technical, but safe, violations, and go after the ones who are riding recklessly.

  • Arnie K.

    de blasio is a politician. he would say the sky is chartreuse if the LSD crowd actually voted

  • Jokedog

    6.8 mph? Better off jogging. Burn more calories that way. Oh right, can’t do that otherwise they’re going to ban me for endangering other pedestrian.

  • Alex

    These e-bikes scooters are a dangerous eye sore. Like locust they will invade every street corner and curve in the city. They a danger to motorist and worst for cyclist, when they are left thrown out like garbage. These things are a danger.

  • j r

    CARS ARE MORE DANGEROUS THAN BIKES, SO DOES THAT MEAN THEY WILL BE BANNED? I THINK NOT. IT WOULD BE POINTLESS. ITS THE DUMBSHITS WHO DONT KNOW HOW TO PROPERLY OPERATE/ DRIVE THEM WHO SHOULD BE BANNED. IF THE GOVERNMENT IS SOO CONCERNED FOR SAFETY ETC WHY DONT THEY BAN ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES INSTEAD SO WE DONT END UP GETTING KILLED BY STUPID IRRESPONSIBLE DRUNK DRIVERS.

  • j r

    LOL I RECOMMEND USING THAT HORN OR GET AN E BIKE, CITIES ARE CROWDED ANYWAYS, AND ARENT MOTORISTS SUPPOSED TO SHARE THE ROAD? I KNOW I DO.

  • j r

    HERE HERE. THAT WAS A GOOD ONE?

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG