Council’s E-Bike Obsession: Like Trying to Drain the Ocean With a Thimble

Last Thursday, City Council members held another press event on electric bikes. A bill introduced by Dan Garodnick would double the fine for riding an e-bike on the sidewalk from $100 to $200, according to a DNAinfo report, while the penalty for running a red light would go as high as $900.

While City Council members obsess over electric bikes, drivers are still crashing into people and buildings. Photo: DNAinfo

The city does not keep data on electric bike summonses or crashes. So like another bill from Jessica Lappin, introduced in February, the Garodnick proposal rests on anecdotes and complaints.

“There are a lot of seniors in this neighborhood,” said McCallian, a Community Board 2 member. “In one case a senior was knocked out of her wheelchair.”

Sunnyside residents and elected officials said that they had seen a significant increase in the number of those bikes in the neighborhood in the past few months.

“They just zoom by,” said another resident Leonore Lanzillotti. “And no one expects that on the sidewalk.”

Local councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who is one of the bill’s sponsors, said that the e-bikes “have become an epidemic of reckless driving” in his district, which includes Sunnyside, Long Island City and Woodside.

Residents in several neighborhoods are clearly distressed by sidewalk e-bike riders, and no one should expect electeds to ignore their safety concerns. But the problem here is much bigger than electric bikes.

For perspective’s sake, here is a sampling of documented, quantifiable four-wheeled vehicle violence that has taken place just since last Thursday’s e-bike presser: Two drivers collided with sufficient force to send one vehicle through the wall of a Long Island City building; a cabbie struck an 87-year-old woman outside Port Authority, putting the victim in the hospital; a nanny barely saved herself and her 4-year-old charge from being crushed by a sociopath who stole an SUV and crashed it onto a sidewalk in Greenwich Village; and an 18-year-old cyclist and a 42-year-old pedestrian were slain within the span of an hour by two hit-and-run drivers in the Bronx.

In attaching higher fees to the misuse of a certain type of vehicle that (for whatever reason) is illegal in the first place, the City Council is trying to drain the ocean with a thimble. The problem, as always, is a general lack of enforcement. Sadly, dangerous drivers offer dozens of opportunities every day for council members to demand that NYPD institute much-needed reforms to reduce the carnage on city streets, beginning with the enforcement of existing traffic laws and full-scale investigations of crashes involving serious injury and death.

If council members want to put their appetite for media attention to its highest and best use, the next traffic safety presser will be at the site of the next horrendous traffic crash.