Hey, West Side Greenway, Citi Bike Called and It Wants Its Bike Lane Back!

Citi Bike's popular e-bikes will be banned on the West Side Greenway. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
Citi Bike's popular e-bikes will be banned on the West Side Greenway. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

The outrage has only just begun over state lawmakers’ apparent plans to bar e-bikes and e-scooters from the Hudson River Greenway.

Officials at Citi Bike are raising an issue about language in the State Senate bill that bars newly legalized electric bikes and scooters from the popular bike path along the West Side Highway — one of the world’s busiest bike lanes.

The bill, which was tweaked after lobbying by the Hudson River Park Trust and Hudson River Park Friends, is expected to pass on Wednesday. If unchanged, it would block all electric bikes from the greenway, including already-legal pedal-assist e-bikes offered by Citi Bike earlier this year — bikes that are set to return to city streets this fall after a repair issue.

Through a spokeswoman, Citi Bike said only, “We’re eager to work with Hudson River Park to ensure that Citi Bike riders are able to ride down the greenway bike path when pedal-assist bike return in the fall.” A spokesman for Jump bike — which offers pedal-assist cycles, though for now only in pilot programs in Staten Island and the Bronx — also questioned the ban on the greenway.

“Banning pedal-assist bikes on the largest bike lane in the country would be a loss for thousands of riders, but it’s more proof that we need to fight for more protected bike lanes and wider infrastructure across the city,” said Harry Hatfield, a spokesman for the Uber-owned red bike company.

Taken together, the message is clear: How did the Hudson River Park Trust get the already-legal pedal-assist electric bike — plus two soon-to-be-legalized classes of throttle-controlled e-bikes that can’t exceed 25 miles per hour — barred from the greenway?

No one is talking today. Streetsblog reached out to State Senators Brad Hoylman and Liz Krueger — who are both said to have insisted on limits on e-bikes and scooters in Manhattan as a precondition of supporting the wider legalization bill. Neither Connie Fishman of Hudson River Park Friends nor officials at the Hudson River Park Trust returned our call — both groups testified against e-bikes and scooters on the greenway at a state hearing earlier this month.

The lack of official comment from lawmakers and e-bike opponents recalls the adage that success has many fathers but failure is an orphan. The vacuum of comments from officials was filled by bike advocates furious over the greenway ban.

Josh Gold, a spokesman for Uber, pointed out that losing the greenway puts more pressure on public officials to create more safe space for cyclists — including those he hopes will someday get to use the Uber-owned Jump bike.

A spokeswoman for Ramos pointed out that the bill does allow for officials to eventually legalize e-bikes or scooters on the Hudson River Greenway.

“The way the bill is written, it allows for agencies that oversee the greenway to decide to repeal that [no-e-bike/scooter] provision and it also allows them to regulate what they would allow on the greenways,” said Ramos spox Julia Arredondo. “This is part of the bill’s overall goal to stop the policing of New York’s delivery workers while giving municipalities control over their own streets.”

The only problem is that delivery workers like using the greenway because it provides a direct north-south route in Manhattan — the main area for food delivery. Macartney Morris of the Biking Public Project, which spearheaded the drive to legalize e-bikes, saw confusion in the future.

“The relief this bill provides workers far outweighs the trade-off regarding the greenway,” he said. “However, tiers of legality for different roadways is no better than tiers of legality for different e-bikes classes. Delivery cyclists and workers deserve safe and direct passage on the greenway and on every New York City street, just as other e-bike riders do as well.”

  • E-bikes should use any street. I merely point out that, on most streets, they can keep up with the cars. On the arterial streets, they’d have to ride off to the side, in the manner of bicycles.

    I am not at all opposed to e-bikes. Their legalisation is a great thing, not only for the sake of unfairly targeted restaurant delivery workers, but mainly for the good contribution that these vehicles can make to mobility. I will probably ride one eventually, as I get older.

    What I am opposed to is e-bikes using bicycle infrastructure.

  • Joseph S

    A) Yes they are illegal because they can’t be registered. All motor vehicles should be registered and insured and the drivers should be licensed an not ridden on infrastructure that exists to protect pedestrians and cyclists from motor vehicles. I don’t have a problem with a full legal motorcycle ridden in the traffic lane.

    B) Ebike are not bicycles. They are motorcycles that look like bicycles.

    C) I was going to a bit of an absurd extreme to make my point. My point being that just because someone is a professional criminal doesn’t mean we should tear down laws to accommodate them. There are plenty of legal ways to earn a living.

  • Joe R.

    There are two good reasons why lightweight vehicles with very low speed and power capabilities shouldn’t have license, registration, or insurance requirements. One is because these things don’t represent any more of a danger to the public, nor are they more difficult to operate, than a bicycle, something which we let even young children do. We require all these things to operate cars and trucks because they weigh many hundreds of pounds or more, are capable of very high speeds, and require a lot of training to operate safely.

    The second reason is to encourage their use. A person on an e-bike or e-scooter is potentially one less person driving a dangerous car. If we’re going to have all the requirements you mention, the majority of people will just get a car which they can also take on the highway. Well, actually that’s what happened since the 1950s. People had no viable micromobility options, so most choose cars. The few that may have existed, like mopeds, had licensing, registration, and in some cases insurance requirements, so there weren’t very many takers. We realized our mistake, and fixed it.

    Ebike are not bicycles. They are motorcycles that look like bicycles.

    The law disagrees with you. Might as well start saying bicycles aren’t vehicles, they’re sneakers with wheels since it would make just as much sense.

  • qrt145

    Interesting stats, but I suspect those average speeds are biased because Strava users are likely to be sportier than average. I think 13.5 mph is fairly close to my average cruising speed on the streets of Manhattan, and I have the impression that I’m faster than most, not counting e-bikes.

    I did try Strava a few times for an experiment and it didn’t count the time you are stopped when reporting an “average speed”. I remember having to go to the trouble of dividing distance by total elapsed time to compute the true average speed that I was interested in. Of course, stops still hurt your “Strava average speed” because of the time taken by slowing down and speeding up.

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  • robertorolfo .

    Can you try to think critically for even two minutes? You claim that riding your e-bike in regular traffic is dangerous, right? Why is that? And do you think it is OK to pass those same dangers along to regular, non-assist bike riders? Stop being so selfish and open your eyes.

  • robertorolfo .

    One can only hope. They certainly weren’t doing that in the past, as they should have been.

  • robertorolfo .

    Actually, he is right. They may be slow motorbikes, but that is exactly what they are.

  • robertorolfo .

    Harassment? Are you aware of how most (yes, most) of those delivery workers ride? They are a menace.

  • robertorolfo .

    Just ride it on the street, where it belongs. Your experience will be the same.

  • robertorolfo .

    What are you talking about? I commute by bike (regular, non-assist bike) every day, and I am completely in favor of banning e-bikes from bike lanes. Having e-bikes in bike lanes completely negates the purpose of creating them in the first place.

  • Dr. Bones

    getting run over by speeding bus or an suv or being doored by one and then being run over by another one, in other words riding on a busy street with thousands of vehicles each one of which could kill you in a split second and barely realize it, is more dangerous than riding on a car free bike and pedestrian lane and being taken over by a bike rider who is going a bit faster than you

    You are the one who is incapable of critical thinking

  • robertorolfo .

    Ok, so it’s clear that you simply don’t get it (and that’s fine, as you aren’t the only one). So let me try to simplify it for you even further: your e-bike, that has a motor, is capable of keeping up with regular vehicular traffic on the streets. So you should be riding on the streets, just like motorcycle and regular scooter riders do. And riding in a normal lane on the street will alleviate most of the concerns you are talking about.

    Instead, the completely selfish and anti-social approach is to contest that you don’t want to be at any risk at all, even if that means putting other people at risk instead. Passing people in the bike lane when using a bike with a motor completely negates the purpose of a bike lane. If you can’t be bothered to make the effort to pedal, that’s fine, just ride in the street with the motorized traffic where you belong.

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