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E-Scooter Pilot in The Bronx Offers New Mode … On Same Old Dangerous Roads

12:01 AM EDT on September 1, 2021

Bronxite riding down Pelham Parkway after unlocking at corral. Photo: Fiifi Frimpong

The city has completed none of the bike lane projects it promised last year when it announced it would bring an electric scooter-share program to a notoriously dangerous portion of the East Bronx — and now thousands of program riders are dealing with that reality.

The Department of Transportation as well as the scooter operators Veo, Bird and Lime have said safety of scooter riders is a top priority, but none of the projects that the DOT announced in April has been completed — and the unsafe roads are encouraging some would-be customers to avoid the pilot altogether.

"Would I ride a scooter? Absolutely not," Bronx resident John Schewerer told Streetsblog the other day. "Especially not with the way the traffic is congested right now. [DOT] needs to do more work around here to make things safer."

Case in point: the intersection of White Plains Road and Boston Road, which remains one of the most-congested and dangerous intersections in the scooter pilot zone. Double-parked cars abound under the elevated subway train, whose tall pillars make traversing the area difficult for riders.

More examples? The area around Bartow and Baychester avenues is always flooded with three lanes of cars attempting to get on and off the Hutchinson River Parkway. The area near Baychester and Boston Road is always congested. Gun Hill Road? As they say in Brooklyn, fuhgedaboudit.

Road safety in The Bronx has been a question long before the city decided to unleash 3,000 scooters in the eastern part of the borough, but it's especially concerning now. Between the April, 2021 announcement and the scooter launch on Aug. 17, 2021, there were 1,319 reported crashes in the zone comprising the e-scooter share pilot — roughly 11 per day in just portion of one borough — injuring 712 people, including 29 cyclists and 69 pedestrians, with one cyclist killed. How many of those injuries would have been prevented with street redesigns? It's impossible to know, but Bronx residents feel the danger that comes from those redesigns not being made.

"I do not think it is safe to use a scooter right now," said Pelham Parkway resident Dylan Billingsley. His friend, Lanay Knowles, then added, "One day some driver is just not going to care and hit someone [off the scooter]."

The DOT does have some proposals to fix some of the persistent problems in The Bronx. When the agency revealed its scooter pilot plan in April, it also said it would redesign White Plains Road underneath the elevated train to add a two-way protected bike lane between East 226th Street and Burke Avenue. But the changes have not yet been made. The agency told us that the complicated project is still in the "planning" phase.

The DOT has also presented its full plan [PDF] for safety improvements on Bronxdale Avenue. That plan calls for installing protected bike lanes for riders and narrowing roadways to reduce speeding cars. The agency told Streetsblog that work will begin this fall.

The city's plan for Eastchester Road was presented in June [PDF]. It calls for protected bike lanes and safer connections to the Bronx River, Mosholu-Pelham and Hutchinson River greenways. The agency claims that the first part of the work will be done this year.

"Safety always comes first, and we selected this area [for the pilot] precisely because it already has greenways and other local bike infrastructure, and we're doing more to build out the local bike network this year and next," said agency spokesman Brian Zumhagen. (It's unclear what Zumhagen meant with his reference to the greenways, as the Parks Department strictly forbids all motorized vehicles on such park paths. We reached out to get clarification.)

But advocacy organizations such as Transportation Alternatives remain concerned of the danger to Bronx residents.

"It is frustrating when there are proposed plans and potential budgets to support those plans and things move at a snail's pace or [never happen] at all," said Shawn Garcia, the Bronx organizer for Transportation Alternatives. "This is the common theme in The Bronx." (Last year in the Bronx, for example, there were 19,520 reported crashes, or 53 per day, injuring 7,829 people, or 21 a day, and killing 40, including seven cyclists and 13 pedestrians.)

Garcia claimed that DOT projects in the Bronx take longer compared to other boroughs. For example, the four-phase Grand Concourse redesign began in 2008 and is expected to be completed by 2022 (though it does not include any part of the Concourse below 161st Street).

The Department of Transportation has made lots of promises for bike infrastructure in the East Bronx, but 2021 is running out. Photo: DOT
The Department of Transportation has made lots of promises for bike infrastructure in the East Bronx, but 2021 is running out. Photo: DOT
The Department of Transportation has made lots of promises for bike infrastructure in the East Bronx, but 2021 is running out. Photo: DOT

The push for safety during the e-scooter pilot is a top priority, added Council Member Kevin Riley, who previously talked with Streetsblog about the need for protected bike lanes to ensure safety. Riley, who represents the northern part of the scooter pilot zone, remains frustrated that the only bike path  in his district is the Bronx River Greenway, which is located away from the heart of the district on the outskirts of Wakefield and Olinville. There are no other protecterd bike lanes in the district, which also includes large population centers such as Co-op City, Edenwald, Eastchester, Williamsbridge and Baychester.

"It is highly important to work closely with the community and Department of Transportation to identify how more safety solutions, like protected bike lanes and paths, can be implemented in the district," said Riley. "We want to ensure that, as alternative methods of transportation are being used, the safety of our e-scooter riders and cyclists is a top priority."

The scooter companies themselves are obviously loathe to criticize DOT's efforts, but Lime Governmental Affairs Director Phil Jones made it clear that safer roads are necessary.

"We look forward to working with DOT as they install key protected lanes for scooter and bike riders in the East Bronx," Jones told Streetsblog in a statement. "Dedicated lanes for micromobility users will enhance the program and encourage more riders to travel sustainably and car free with the peace of mind that they are safer from car traffic."

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