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Cheers, Jeers Greet First Day of City’s Pilot to Allow E-Bikes in Parks

Cops swarmed all over Central Park to spread the news of the first day of a pilot program to allow e-bikes to use park greenways where they had been banned.

12:00 AM EDT on June 21, 2023

Photos: Jonah Schwarz

Is this a bike jamboree or a crime scene? Actually, it depends on whom you ask.

On Tuesday, cops swarmed all over Central Park to inform cyclists and pedestrians of the first day of the city’s one-year pilot program to allow electric bikes to legally use park greenways and roadways where they had been banned in contradiction of state law.

The initiative is part of Mayor Adams’s “Charge Safe, Ride Safe” mobility plan, which finally legalized pedal-assist and some throttle-controlled electric bikes, plus e-scooters, on park drives and greenways such as the Central Park Loop, Prospect Park Loop, and city-controlled parts of the Hudson River Greenway (mopeds, electric skateboards, Segways, hoverboards, and one-wheels remain illegal). 

Cyclists, of course, were overjoyed to come out of the shadows.

One teenage deliverista, who gave the name Carlos, said he’ll now use the park roadways, which he avoided because of the risk of a ticket. Fellow delivery worker, Mohammed, 27, said the ban on using park drives and greenways had undermined his livelihood because he couldn’t make enough deliveries.

Now, he said, he can do his job without fear of breaking the law, which police have been enforcing sporadically. In all of 2022, the Central Park Precinct wrote just 341 tickets for violations that involved cyclists (though not all of the violations were written to illegal e-bike riders).

Of course, many park goers expressed concerns about e-bikes and e-scooters, despite very few incidents of crashes or injuries from electric bikes, according to city stats. (Click here for a map of the newly legal riding routes.)

“Many food delivery people who are on throttle e-bikes recklessly bike in the city,” said a young runner who gave the name Gabriella. “I’m afraid there will be more reckless high-speed e-bikes biking around the park.”

But she ultimately said she supports the pilot because she occasionally rides an e-scooter

Kevin James (left) and a friend enjoyed a legal electric ride.

Many beneficiaries of the pilot program were unaware that they could now use e-bikes and e-scooters legally. Kevin James, 18, said he was “more likely to use e-bikes in the park now” instead of going out of his way when using an e-bike.

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