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Friday’s Headlines: Mopeds Are Not the Enemy Edition

What should be done about mopeds? How about taking the streets from cars? And other news.

12:08 AM EDT on July 28, 2023

Photo: Noah Martz

Lucas Freshman was biking home into Brooklyn on Wednesday night when he came upon a horrific crash halfway over the Manhattan Bridge. Four people were injured, at least one of them seriously. The crash involved an e-bike, a regular bicycle, and "two or three big, gas-powered scooters," Freshman told Streetsblog. 

Freshman, who is an ER nurse, said he believed the most seriously injured rider had multiple open fractures. A woman had fashioned a tourniquet out of a sweatshirt, and was applying extreme pressure to the man’s leg. The injured rider laid in the narrow bike path and slipped in and out of consciousness, and Freshman tried speaking to him to keep him awake and alive. "I asked for his name," Freshman said. "I asked him where he was from, how old he was." The man said he was 24, and that his name was Juan.

Wednesday’s crash was yet another chilling reminder of how much New York City has to do to make streets and crossings safer for people who don’t use cars to get around town. A big part of the government’s mission should be coming up with a coherent policy to address the larger mopeds that are now in regular use across the city’s bike infrastructure. 

None of these mopeds are allowed in any bike lanes, but it’s more complicated than that. (What is a "moped"? Check out Streetsblog’s definitive field guide to micromobility.) If you were forced to use a moped—say, because your increasingly difficult job as a delivery driver required it—would you stick to the relatively safe bike lanes, or take your chances on the deadly, potholed-riddled streets with all of the massive metal boxes going much faster than you?

Pedestrians, New Yorkers on old-fashioned bicycles, and yes, e-bike riders, have a right to be concerned about these heavier, faster vehicles zooming on their hard-won turf. But do not lose sight of what actually causes the vast majority of crashes and injuries. According to DOT data, there were 50,726 injuries and 247 fatalities involving automobiles in 2022; for "other-motorized," the category that the DOT uses to describe scooters, mopeds, and other micromobility devices, there were 468 injuries, and 6 fatalities, five of those being the operators of the vehicles themselves; one was a pedestrian. 

And recall that we just lived through an era of discriminatory and sporadic enforcement against e-bike riders. There must be a better way.

"I do feel like it's a large systemic, trickle-down problem, in that these guys are on the bike paths because it's dangerous AF for them in the street," Freshman told Streetsblog. "They’ve been pushed downstream and now they’ve made it dangerous for me, a cyclist, and for themselves. But it’s because the streets are incredibly car-centric."

Freshman suggested that the city needs to take a lot more space from cars, and give it back to everyone else.

"Cars dominate these streets in incredibly dangerous, bad ways. It’s not safe for delivery guys, or for anyone on their regular commute," Freshman said.

City Hall, City Council: Are you listening?

In other news:

  • Tesla suppressed thousands of legitimate reports that its cars failed to meet their own battery range standards, Reuters reports. Remember when Andrew Cuomo asked Elon Musk to help fix the subway signals?
  • The Queens Chronicle did a great follow-up on our reporting on Vickie Paladino's son's Aston Martin with the fraudulent Arizona temp tag. "The paperwork was being done prior," Thomas Paladino told the outlet. "But that’s all I’m going to say about it. The car has since been registered properly." Oh, well, in that case!
  • The Post reports that Mayor Eric Adams is sending an ambassador over to meet with the City Council, after the legislative body overrode the mayor's housing voucher veto. The mayor's chosen "peacemaker"? Ingrid Lewis-Martin, who also happens to be City Hall's chief agitator.
  • FDNY commissioner Laura Kavanaugh once again made an appeal for tougher regulations on the lithium-ion batteries used in cheaper e-bikes, this time in D.C. before federal regulators (Streetsblog has been all over this.)
  • In related news: DoorDash announced that they are partnering with the outdoor store REI (ahem) to offer "an exclusive discount" to delivery workers so they can access the brand's high-quality e-bikes. How much of a discount? We asked, and they won't say.
  • And finally: MTA CEO Janno Lieber tossed out the first pitch at Thursday night's Mets game. We'll leave you with this photograph:
(Marc A. Hermann / MTA)

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