Photo shows a delivery worker on an electric bike riding on the sidewalk through a bars outdoor dining setup.
Stopping the lawlessness on UES streets and sidewalks is as simple as holding reckless e-bike riders accountable for their actions, critics say | Upper East Site

E-Bike Chaos Sparks Urgent Call for City & State Legislation [Opinion] 🆓

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New Yorkers are outraged at the growing chaos on the streets caused by e-bikes blowing lights, riding on sidewalks, and increasingly, hitting people. There’s a simple way to start to fix it: City and State legislation. 

We’ve all been there — brushed or crushed by an e-bike on our streets and sidewalks. They are wanton, flagrant and frankly don’t give a damn. There is zero accountability, and sadly, for many, this is human nature. That’s why we have laws.

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Photo shows a delivery worker in a motorcycle helmet riding an electric bike on the sidewalk.
A delivery worker on an electric bike rides on the sidewalk past construction workers carrying demolition debris from a work site | Upper East Site

City Council Member Bob Holden has introduced legislation that could provide this accountability, co-sponsored by 33 of the 51 council members last year and now due to be re-upped.

It’s a simple bill. The legislation would require all ‘micro-mobility devices’ that have a motor and are not required to be registered with the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles to be registered with New York City’s Department of Transportation. 

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Photo shows a man riding an electric bike on a sidewalk in front of an enclosed outdoor cafe.
A man on an electric bike rides on a narrow Upper East Side sidewalk | Upper East Site

This would require each e-bike in NYC to have a visible license plate. Registration would be very low cost or no cost. The point is not to penalize e-bikers or suppress ridership; it is meant to change behavior and foster accountability and responsibility. 

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But, this proposal has set the hair of ‘bike activist’ groups like Transportation Alternatives on fire , which are fueled by money from the likes of Lyft, DoorDash and a variety of other apps. Surprisingly, they see accountability as an existential threat.

Photo shows two young teens riding grey electric motorized Citi Bikes against traffic in the Third Avenue bike lane
Children on motorized electric Citi Bikes recklessly ride against traffic in the Third Avenue bike lane | Upper East Site

In response to widespread support for holding e-bikes accountable, these interests are deflecting, deceiving, and conflating bicycles with e-bikes.

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With all that being said, let’s address their disingenuous arguments:

‘This bill does nothing to address mopeds.’

True. It also does nothing to address gun violence, homelessness or a myriad of other issues of the day. This bill is specifically about e-bikes.

Photo shows a person on a moped illegally riding with a group of delivery workers on e-bikes.
Moped riders illegally use Upper East Side bike lanes in addition to delivery workers on electric bikes | Upper East Site

The E-Vehicle Safety Alliance — a grassroots organization comprised of concerned citizens who have had close calls, near misses, or have been injured by the riders of two-wheeled machines — has prompted legislation on mopeds, too, including requiring them to be registered and plated in the store before hitting the street. This legislation is under consideration in Albany during this session, and we are proud of it.

‘This bill will suppress bike ridership.’

There is no data to support this assertion. Has vehicle registration suppressed the driving of cars? Has dog licensing suppressed dog ownership? If a license plate dissuades e-bikers that ride dangerously, so be it.

Photo shows two delivery workers riding an electric bike on a sidewalk.
Delivery workers on electric bikes routinely illegally ride on the sidewalk, putting pedestrians in danger | Upper East Site

‘More bikers equals more safety for bikers.’

Despite an enormous increase in bike ridership, the streets remain hazardous, and cyclist fatalities in 2023 regrettably matched our worst year since 1999. 

It’s the e-bikes! Of the 28 fatalities, 21 were on e-bikes (legalized only five years ago), and they have been shown to be 19 times more dangerous to ride than a regular bike, according to a recent study by the office of New York State Assembly Member Alex Bores, who represents the Upper East Side. 

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If we can tap the brakes on e-bikes, it is likely to result in safer streets for all. The EVSA supports protected bike lanes, and unlike the bike lobby, we support the requirement that bike riders wear helmets.

‘It’s the apps’ fault; they make the delivery guys drive fast.’

Capitalism incentivizes delivering as many goods and services as quickly as possible. That’s why we have rules.

Photo shows a delivery workers riding an electric bike on a sidewalk in the snow.
A delivery worker rides an electric bike on a wet Upper East Side sidewalk in a snowstorm | Upper East Site

Take cabs as an example. If cabs were allowed to drive 50 mph instead of 25 mph, they would make more money, right? Why don’t they? Well, they have licenses, registration and accountability. What a concept!

‘Registration will result in police stops that are racist.’

The addition of a license plate will have no effect on the number of police stops. Granted, the majority of delivery workers are people of color, but most will agree that there is not enough enforcement of our traffic laws in general.

Photo shows a delivery worker on an electric bike riding through a red light into traffic.
A man on an electric bike rides through a red light and attempts to navigate through traffic | Upper East Site

Regardless of race, everyone should be treated equally, and everyone is responsible for obeying the law. 

‘Bike registration didn’t work in Toronto.’

The bike lobby loves to conflate bicycles and e-bikes. We are only suggesting that e-bikes be registered, not bicycles.

Photo shows a woman riding an electric Citi Bike the wrong way in the First Avenue bike lane.
A woman without a helmet rides an electric Citi Bike the wrong way against traffic in the First Avenue bike lane | Upper East Site

The bottom line is that the app-fueled bike lobby will make any excuse to avoid simple legislation that will add a modest degree of accountability for e-bike riders. We’ve all seen it, the ‘Wild West’ on our streets and sidewalks. Many of us have nearly been hit, or have been hit, injured and worse.

ALSO READ | Citi Bike-Riding Thief Robbing Women on the UES: NYPD

The EVSA’s members include people who have broken ribs, hips and clavicles. Our members have suffered partial paralysis, traumatic brain injuries, and, in the tragic case of Priscilla Loke, death at the hands of a motorized Citi Bike running a red light. 

Photo shows a delivery worker riding the wrong way against traffic on the Third Avenue bike lane.
A delivery worker rides an electric bike the wrong way against traffic in the Third Avenue bike lane | Upper East Site

Thanks to a lack of accountability, e-bikes are also regularly used in the commission of crimes.

Enough is enough. It is time that our City and State elected officials hear us and stop caving to app companies and the bike lobby they use by proxy. We are the pedestrians, the seniors, the families and the next unsuspecting victims. We are the majority, and we demand e-bike registration now.

Andrew Fine is an Upper East Sider, husband, father, vice president of the East 86th Street Association and a founding member of the EVSA. To join their fight, contact [email protected]

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