One Simple Solution to NYC’s ‘E-Bike Crisis’
Give two-wheeled New Yorkers more space on the streets.
10:11 AM EDT on October 18, 2023
You hear it from cyclists, you hear it from pedestrians, you even hear it from Fran Lebowitz: New York City's bike lanes are too crowded and dangerous, and the people who ride e-bikes and mopeds are threatening the lives of everyone around them.
Apparently, our mayor agrees. "We have an e-bike crisis," Mayor Eric Adams told reporters on Tuesday, during his weekly off-topic press conference. "We all see what's going on through the city, and I guarantee you, probably 60 percent of you in this room, those illegal mopeds and e-bikes that are flying through our streets, they're dropping off deliveries to you. So you need to start talking to some of your restaurants and tell them they need to make sure that their riders are using it appropriately."
Adams was referring to the 65,000 delivery workers who have to use some form of souped-up two-wheeled transportation—e-bikes, mopeds, or scooters—to do their jobs. And while the venture capital-backed delivery apps should absolutely pay their workers more, treat them like actual employees, and give them bike batteries that don't explode, they don't control the streets. Mayor Adams does.
There is a simple solution to the problem that Adams is complaining about: Give people on two wheels more dedicated, safe space to get around.
In many ways, the "e-bike crisis" is another way of saying "the New York City cycling renaissance." According to the most recent Department of Transportation data from 2021, New Yorkers take 550,000 bike trips every single day—an increase of 129 percent from 2008. That number is likely higher today, as Citi Bike has kept shattering ridership records this year as it slowly expands into the outer boroughs. E-bikes in particular have become more popular, ridden not just by delivery workers but well-heeled Brooklyn parents and Citi Bike users (the 5,000 e-bikes are ridden three times more frequently than the 25,000 regular bikes in their fleet).
Yet our City government has not increased the amount of street space to meet this demand. Only three percent of the city's streets have protected bike lanes; 94 percent of the record number of cyclists killed on our streets this year died on streets without them.
E-bikes are a convenient scapegoat for the chaos on the street. Yes, they are heavier and faster, making them extra annoying and scary for bikers who are trying to navigate a narrow passageway over a bridge. Gas-powered mopeds and scooters are even worse—louder, heavier, fucking terrible for everyone else around them.
But banning or licensing or cracking down on e-bikes, mopeds, and scooters is an idiotic fantasy. To paraphrase the mayor: Who do you think is ordering all that delicious take-out? And if we're banishing dangerous modes of transportation, let me introduce you to the automobile, a machine that drivers used to kill 131 people across the city last year, and hundreds more this year.
According to DOT data, 12 pedestrians have been killed by all users of electric two-wheeled vehicles since 2014—that's e-bikes, e-scooters, Revels, stand-up scooters, "hoverboards," etc. That's roughly the same number of people who are killed by car drivers in a single month, in a typical year.
Now is the time—with congestion pricing on the horizon, with more New Yorkers than ever before willing to cram into a crowded bike lane to avoid getting into a car or waiting on a subway platform—to encourage two-wheeled modes of transit, not half-heartedly issue a bunch of racist tickets or confiscate people's livelihoods.
Take space away from cars (They'll figure it out! It's science!) and repurpose it for bikes, e-bikes, scooters, and yes, mopeds. (Haven't you been to Europe? Or Asia? Or literally anywhere else?) There are many plans that exist for the Adams administration to do this, right now.
Instead, the Adams administration, as we have reported, is moving backwards—stalling or watering down long-needed street improvements and bike lane projects. The administration is nowhere close to meeting their legally mandated requirement to build 50 miles of protected bike lanes this year.
At Tuesday's press conference, Adams said he was going "door to door" to get community input for a Brooklyn bike boulevard that has already been built, one that the DOT literally spent years surveying the community about.
"When you change the street, you are changing the fabric of a community, and we're going to do it by hearing from both sides," Adams said. "And sometimes, you know, you get a yay or nay on both sides of the spectrum."
And here are some links that need your community engagement:
- Governor Kathy Hochul is en route to Israel, her first foreign trip as governor.
- In order for the Adams administration to kick migrant families out of DHS shelters after a 60-day stay, they need a waiver from the state. According to the CITY, "so far, the city has not gotten the necessary waiver to distribute the 60-day eviction notices in any of those locations." Fewer than half of those being expelled at the 60-day mark are reapplying for shelter.
- New York City is building just 11,000 new homes this year, because developers got addicted to (now-expired) tax breaks.
- Sometimes it's best to cancel an event, even when you really need the cash that you might have gotten at the event before you were indicted (again) for doing crimes as a U.S. senator.
- Tim Pearson, the old friend of Eric Adams who used to work for a casino and the City of New York and collect a NYPD pension all at the same time, but then resigned from the casino job after the haters weighed in, got into a scuffle with security guards at a migrant shelter in Midtown.
- It's not your imagination: The R train and the N train still suck shit.
- Fearless warriors against campus cancel culture! (You know, the people who made tons of money pretending like they cared about this sort of thing a few years ago.) Now is the time to rise up! Where are you?
- Mayor Adams hemmed and hawed when he was asked about which DSA members were waving swastikas around, per his earlier statements.
- Meet the guy who designed some of the most delightful playgrounds in town.
- No thanks.
- Two things can be true: In 2021, Andrew Cuomo needed to be investigated by state authorities for a variety of reasons, and those investigations should not have cost $20 million.
- A Sikh teenager was punched in the head by a bigot on a bus.
- I am someone who hates New York, who doesn't really leave their apartment except to smoke, who is also somehow paid to act like the quintessential New Yorker. Who am I?
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