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Key Upper West Side Pol Gale Brewer Comes Out Against E-Bike Registration Bill

The dean of Manhattan's political establishment is the latest elected official to distance herself from a bill that would require registration for every e-bike in the city.

12:01 AM EST on November 13, 2023

Photo: TA|

City Council member Gale Brewer (inset) says these bikes don’t need license plates.

The dean of Manhattan's political establishment is the latest elected official to distance herself from a bill that would require registration for every e-bike in the city.

City Council Member Gale Brewer (D-Upper West Side) announced on Friday afternoon that she would not support the effort led by City Council Member Bob Holden to require every e-bike New York City be registered with the city Department of Transportation.

"I do not believe a blanket e-bike registration rule will make streets safer, nor is NYC DOT equipped to establish, manage or enforce it," Brewer tweeted, along with a nod to several of her own bills on the issue.

One of those bills, Intro. 1168, would require delivery app companies in the city to provide delivery workers with e-bikes that use safe lithium ion batteries. The other, Intro. 1163, proposes to worker training and certification, as well as identification headgear or stickers for delivery workers making deliveries through apps.

A coalition of 31 street safety, environmental and other civic organizations also endorsed those bills in a public letter issued earlier this week that called on City Council members to reject the Holden bill.

Holden's proposal is "ineffective, dangerous, expensive, short-sighted, and bureaucratically complicated," the groups wrote.

Brewer's rejection of the bill carries a hefty weight: She has represented the Upper West Side in the City Council for much of the 21st century — in the Council since 2022 and from 2002 to 2013, and as Manhattan Borough President from 2014 to 2021. She won a resounding re-election — against a challenger who made e-bikes a central issue of her campaign — on Tuesday in a neighborhood is a center of anti-e-bike agitation.

The Upper West Side's Community Board 7 earlier this year rejected a city proposal for a delivery worker rest area and charging hub outside the 72nd Street subway station amid a fury of anti-delivery worker and anti-e-bike comments. Brewer informed constituents last month that the hub is happening despite the board's opposition, the West Side Rag reported.

A Streetsblog analysis found that the neighborhood's residents order more food delivery by app than much of the rest of the city.

Two other Council members recently withdrew their co-sponsorship of Holden's e-bike registration proposal. Council Members Rita Joseph and Sandy Nurse each dropped their sponsorship of the bill. Neither legislator explained the flip-flop, nor responded to requests for comment from Streetsblog.

Holden's bill could have a chilling effect on e-bike use in the city by creating additional barriers to entry for potential riders, opponents argued in their letter this week.

"Cities that have adopted laws to register and license bikes have seen declining ridership, increased police stops in communities of color, and, ultimately, an increase in traffic violence," the group led by Transportation Alternatives, Los Deliverista Unidos and others wrote.

The bill could further "open a door to licensing all bikes" and push more working cyclists to mopeds — already growing and troubling presence on city streets, they said.

Others have already come out of the woodwork to oppose the bill. Manhattan Community Board 6, which represents the east side of Manhattan between 14th Street and 59th Street, passed a resolution opposing the bill — in part because "this proposal, as it stands, would have negative impacts on all cyclists."

After that CB6 vote, 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."

After Brewer's tweet revealed that it is not just "a single community board" opposing his bill, Holden tweeted that Brewer is just a tool of special interests:

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