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Manhattan CB6 Rejects E-Bike Registration Bill

It was a close vote, but Manhattan Community Board 6 still said "no thanks" to Holden's e-bike registration bill.

Photo: Kevin Duggan|

Manhattan Community Board 6 voted against Bob Holden’s e-bike registration bill Wednesday, Nov. 8.

A Manhattan community board on Wednesday fully rejected a contested Council bill that would require licensing and registration for all e-bikes, as members of the civic panel slammed it as overly broad and merely paying “lip service” to concerns about safer micromobility practices. 

Community Board 6, covering the East Side of Manhattan between 14th and 59th streets, approved its resolution opposing the e-bike legislation by Queens Council Member Bob Holden — which has a majority support from fellow lawmakers — with 21 in favor, 15 against, and five abstentions; a tighter margin than the resounding 8-1 approval by in its Transportation Committee on Monday night

The bill would require “every bicycle with electric assist, electric scooter, and other legal motorized vehicle that is not otherwise required to be registered with the DMV, to be registered with DOT and receive an identifying number which would be displayed on a visible plate affixed to the vehicle.”

The Manhattan board members are the first to go on record against the proposal — though their vote is just a recommendation. 

Members derided the proposed law for lumping together all types of electric-powered two-wheelers, open the possibility for over-enforcement, and actively discourage cycling — which seems to be the whole point of it. 

“This is very broad, it is incomplete, and it’s being proposed the same time by Council Member Holden, who’s also proposing a complete ban on e-bicycles with eight sponsors, so there’s a feeling that there isn’t a lot of thought behind this,” said CB6 Transportation Committee Chairperson Brian Van Nieuwenhoven at the Wednesday night meeting. 

Holden’s floated regulations don't address illegal mopeds, which critics say have brought more friction to city streets, and it also fails to address a legal loophole where moped buyers can leave a store without registering their devices. 

“It is a lip service to the issue, but not proposing a realistic solution to the problem of dangerous operation of these e-mobility vehicles,” said board member Jason Froimowitz. 

Registration and license plates for cars has not stopped the rampant scourge of scofflaw drivers covering or defacing their plates, the East Sider pointed out. 

“We currently require registration and license plates for motor vehicles in New York City and there is a prolific problem of vehicles obstructing, and removing, and defacing those license plates, so I fail to see how a solution requesting new implementation of license plates would be effective,” Froimowitz said. 

The pols should take a page out of the board’s own proposals from June to improve safety for e-mobility riders, the panelists said.

Their framework included better street designs to allow for varying speeds on bike paths, education campaigns, improved signage, and holding delivery apps to account.

But at least one area pol who signed onto the Holden law hadn’t even heard of those suggestions from the board within their own district, according to Van Nieuwenhoven, although he didn’t namedrop the lawmaker. 

“One of them who I spoke with ... was a sponsor on the bill, and they had no idea about our e-mobility resolution from June, they didn’t know that we passed anything,” he said.

Two of the three Council members in the CB6 district — Keith Powers and Julie Menin — are signed onto the bill.

Wednesday night’s full board vote was a closer call than the Transportation Committee two nights before, and several board members voiced their support for Holden’s proposed statute.

One backer of the bill tried to "table" a vote on the board resolution, while trying to make the case that cops needed plates on e-bikes to catch offenders — a questionable statement given that NYPD has done routine sweeps and filled its tow pounds with plate-less mopeds. 

“The cops will tell you that there’s nothing they can do to ticket these guys because they’re gone the minute they see the violation,” said Jim Collins. “I walk the Manhattan Bridge five days a week and these scooters and the bikes are in that lane — in the pedestrian lane.”

CB6 member Jim Collins (with mic) tried to "table" the motion. Photo: Kevin Duggan

Another acknowledged that the bill wasn’t perfect, but said concerns about e-bikes kept coming up while he was getting out the vote for the recent election. 

“The past two weeks I’ve been on street corners getting out the early vote and yesterday for election day, and the number one issue in our district has been this,” said Michael Devereaux. “The bill isn’t perfect, I get that, and I do think after a hearing there should be changes on it.”

The board also passed a resolution calling on the city to follow state law and clear intersections of parked cars, a process known as daylighting. 

The measure passed more easily with 38 in favor and 3 against, and followed other community boards in Queens and Brooklyn passing similar calls-to-action, including Queens Community Board 6, which voted unanimously for such a move the same night. 

Holden dismissed the board's opposition as not representative of the whole city.

"A single community board's failing to back it simply doesn't capture the citywide consensus," the pol said in a statement. "The anti-car lobby's noise won't sway me or the majority of our city's residents, who clearly favor the positive changes my bill will bring."

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