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Three Council Members Whose Districts Surround Prospect Park Demand the Return of E-Bikes

12:48 AM EST on December 21, 2022

Electric avenue: (from left) Council members Rita Joseph, Shahana Hanif and Crystal Hudson all support e-bikes in Propspect Park. File photo

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E-bikes aren't evil.

Three Brooklyn Council members whose districts all touch Prospect Park are demanding that the Parks Department allow the battery-boosted bikes to be used inside the greenspace, which, like other city parks, don't permit e-bikes.

The trio — Shahana Hanif (D-Park Slope), Crystal Hudson (D-Prospect Heights) and Rita Joseph (D-Prospect Lefferts Gardens — said in a letter to the agency that it acknowledged that Prospect Park officials have "safety concerns" about electric bikes, but then quickly added, "E-bikes are legal to ride on New York City streets and make moving around the city more accessible without adding more pollution and congestion to our streets and parks via cars or environmentally unfriendly forms of transportation."

"As a city, we should be encouraging e-bike usage instead of creating zones of inaccessibility within the city," the letter added, concluding that the three lawmakers are eager to "craft a policy that permits e-bikes in Prospect Park while also taking into consideration safety concerns."

The group specifically focused on the Parks Department rules that treat electric bikes the same as all motor vehicles — and those rules define a motor vehicle as “any automobile, motorcycle, moped, or other vehicle propelled by a motor,” which Parks stretches to include the electric motors on pedal-assist and throttle e-bikes. Yet the state law that legalized e-bikes in 2020 explicitly exempts e-bikes from being defined as motor vehicles.

The Parks rule puts e-bikes "in the same category as everything from 4,000-pound trucks to 6,000-pound SUVs that may prove deadly to pedestrians and cyclists alike in the event of a crash," the letter continued.

Council Member Rita Joseph on a ride.
Council Member Rita Joseph on a ride.
Council Member Rita Joseph on a ride.

"Simply put, the Parks Department has no justification for classifying e-bikes in the same category as SUVs or trucks at all, and the Parks Department's current blanket ban on e-bikes in Prospect Park sends the wrong message about our city’s values."

Those values include all the things that the Parks Department claims it supports, the lawmakers argued, including concern for the environment, support for recreation and advocacy for accessibility.

"E-bike users include delivery workers who keep us fed, families on cargo bikes, individuals recovering from surgery, older adults, people who live in areas with fewer public transit options, those who want to limit their carbon footprint by not driving cars, and so many more," wrote the lawmakers, who have been on the Parks Department's case since a sting against e-bike riders over the summer. "In other words, e-bike users are all New Yorkers."

Electric Citi Bikes, of course, are docked inside the very park that bans them. As such, Lyft, which owns Citi Bike, reiterated its earlier call to legalize them in the park.

"Parks are not a place for cars, but pedal assist ebikes are a different thing entirely," said Caroline Samponaro, the company's vice president of Transit, Bike and Scooter Policy. "E-bikes — like our parks — are used by different people for different purposes: some use them for exercise and recreation, and others use them as a shortcut to get from one part of the city to another. There is no reason why our parks should have a blanket ban on Class 1 [aka pedal assist] e-bikes, which have exploded in popularity and reach top speeds on par with many kinds of pedal powered bikes."

The Parks Department did not get back to us by deadline. We will update this story if it does.

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