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Friday’s Headlines: Will the UWS Secede from NYS?

12:03 AM EDT on September 10, 2021

The real target of CB7’s wrath. File photo: Wilfred Chan

Update | What's next? Is Community Board 7 thinking of seceding from New York State?

It's a reasonable question, given that last night, the Upper West Side's Jekyll-and-Hyde community board considered (but ultimately quietly backed away from) voting for its transportation committee's proposed ban on electric bikes in bike lanes, but still called for enforcement against delivery workers' e-bikes, which are legal in bike lanes.

Indeed, the problem with such resolutions (and they are popping up all over the city) is that electric bikes — i.e. bikes with pedals, but also powered by batteries and with top speeds of 25 miles per hour — are legal in bike lanes under New York State law. It's all in this chart (below) that the city Department of Transportation has put out repeatedly.

Chart: DOT
Chart: DOT
Chart: DOT

Notice the green strips — those are the legal e-bikes. Class 1 is pedal assist electric bikes such as Citi Bike electrics. Class 2 and 3 differ only in speed — both have pedals and also a throttle to regulate the speed.

They're all legal in bike lanes. Without a driver's license or registration. That's simply state law. But CB7's resolution called for increased NYPD enforcement of e-bikes in the bike lanes — which is basically a community board calling for the NYPD to supersede state law.

Now, you can't completely blame CB7 for misunderstanding state law — almost everyone does it, including the people breaking it. Every moped you see in the city that is not bearing a NYS license plate is illegal. They mostly look like Revel and Lime mopeds, and some even look like motorcycles, except that Revel and Lime machines all have license plates. But even with a license plate, a moped is never legal in a bike lane.

And it was a moped driver — not an e-bike rider — who killed actor Lisa Banes earlier this year in an Amsterdam Avenue bike lane, a crime that set off the latest backlash against fast-moving machines (though, oddly, not cars, which are far more deadly). Earlier this summer, Mayor de Blasio said he opposed the CB7 move to push delivery workers from their legal sanctuaries in bike lanes to the dangerous roadways. Let's see if he stands up to the Upper West Side now.

Our friends at Streetopia UWS had a particular hot take on the vote:

In other news:

    • Oddly, several outlets covered the NYPD's press conference claiming that officers would begin an opening-week-of-school crackdown on reckless driving, which is certainly welcome in a year with the most road deaths since Mayor de Blasio took over (NYDN). But, equally oddly, none of the outlets mentioned that the NYPD is the dullest blade in the road safety tool box, given that the agency doesn't even do its part of Vision Zero with any real urgency. For example, in June, 2021 (the last month for which there are full-month stats), cops citywide wrote just:
      • 2,308 failure-to-yield tickets (down from 5,208, or 55 percent, in June 2019)
      • 7,777 speeding tickets (down from 11,993, or 35 percent, in June 2019)
      • 2,623 tickets for running a red light (down from 5,933, or 56 percent, in June 2019)
      • 1,882 tickets for improper turn (down from 6,857, or 72 percent, in June 2019)
      • 39,777 total moving violation tickets (down from 82,229, or 51 percent, in June 2019).

So, do the math: Cops aren't doing much enforcement to make the roadways safe. No wonder the DOT keeps begging Albany to pass the 24-7 speed camera bill.

    • Another cop was arrested for drunk driving. (NY Post)
    • Here's a bizarre story: amNY's Kevin Duggan broke the news of how MTA CEO Janno Lieber wishes that NYPD cops wore masks in the subway. “I would like it if the police themselves were a little better," Lieber said at a meeting of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee. Why did Duggan break the story when other reporters were there, too? Because the reporters in the room promised Lieber that he could be off the record — but Duggan was watching the live stream of the meeting on his office computer. Smart kid.
    • For our development fans, here's a great Kim Kelsey piece about the NIMBY fight over a Crown Heights project. (Curbed)
    • Also looking broader, Bloomberg looked at how America fell out of love with pedestrian malls.
    • In case you missed it, our own Jesse Coburn was on WNYC's weekend show on Saturday talking about his awesome investigation into a weird quirk in New York City insurance requirements that leave Uber and Lyft crash victims suffering.
    • Hat-tip to the Queens Chronicle for a deeper dive on the communication and policy failures of Assembly Member Jenifer Rajukar last week that led to massive confusion and outrage over her stated desire (broken by Streetsblog) to turn "vacant park space" into parking spaces in her Woodhaven district. Max Parrott's excellent story revealed that whatever the confusion, one thing is clear: Rajkumar wants to create more parking, which we all know leads to more driving, more asthma, more road deaths, more congestion and more pollution. (Update: Driving also:
      • deprives kids of the opportunity to travel freely and gain independence.
      • creates an atmosphere of perpetual fear and vigilance
      • unfairly burdens non-drivers
      • prevents non-drivers from having the freedom to live the lives they want
      • threatens children and families
      • undermines the livability of our neighborhoods
      • promotes danger
      • crushes the freedom of people to get around by means other than cars
      • squeezes out alternative uses of the streets
      • steamrolls neighborhood livability.)
    • Want to know about our new Lt. Gov.? Michael Lange has you covered.
    • A sitting member of the Assembly lied to Community Board 10 last night by claiming a street safety advocate opposed a much-needed redesign of dangerous roadways in Sunset Park. Shame on you, Peter Abbate. (Brian Hedden via Twitter)
    • And, finally, Jon Orcutt, Hollywood is calling you! (Deadline)

Correction: This story was updated at 11 a.m. on Friday to clarify what CB7 actually voted on, which was initially not clear.

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