One local politician gets it: Rafael Espinal, a member of the City Council, wrote an op-ed in the NY Daily News. http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/peda ... -1.3818945
Every day, we are seeing developments in clean energy technology that move us toward renewable sources and away from fossil fuels. Electric power will define the future of our transportation; it’s only a matter of how quickly our city embraces the change.
Cities across the country and around the world are beefing up their public transit by making bold investments in electric-powered vehicles, from electric buses to electric bicycles, to mitigate congestion and reduce emissions.
Yet here in New York City, we’re still fighting the tide — with a backward, punitive approach.
Nothing exemplifies our mistake better than the city’s attack on pedal-assisted, electric bicycles. For years, e-bikes have been a useful method of transportation for food delivery workers, many of whom earn as little as $30 a day and are forced to brace harsh weather.
These low-wage, often immigrant workers rely on e-bikes to make deliveries faster and easier. The small electric motor allows bike riders to travel at an average speed of 18 miles an hour, not much faster than a traditional bicycle and certainly much slower than a motorcycle or car.
And let’s not forget that before the e-bike, what generally transported our deliveries were gas-powered, air-polluting mopeds.
While there has been no data to indicate that e-bikes are associated with higher crash or injury rates, the de Blasio administration has taken a punitive stance on e-bikes. In October 2017, Mayor de Blasio announced an unprovoked crackdown, saying that beginning in 2018, the NYPD would spearhead civil enforcement against businesses by allowing officers to issue civil summonses through the mail — in addition to getting a $100 fine for their first infraction.
Riders caught operating an e-bike are subject to a civil summons, confiscation of the bike and a $500 fine.
It’s true that e-bikes are technically illegal to operate on our streets. But that doesn’t mean it’s a wise enforcement priority for the city. Of course, e-bikes, when used incorrectly, can be a nuisance to New Yorkers. But we should not blame the vehicle for the careless habits of the rider. If e-bike riders follow the same laws of the road as do nonelectric-bike riders, which they typically do, they should have the exact same access to our streets.
Other cities have fully embraced e-bikes and are making them more accessible to commuters. San Francisco recently announced a 250 e-bike pilot program, while Baltimore and Birmingham, Ala., have integrated e-bikes into their bike-sharing schemes. Even Texas and Florida have more progressive e-bike laws than New York does.
Imagine if Citi Bike had the right to incorporate e-bikes into their bike-share model. The possibility of crossing one of the East River’s many bridges without breaking a sweat would attract more New Yorkers to use that mode of transportation to get in or out of Manhattan, especially during the L train shutdown. This would reduce vehicular congestion and the strain on our already overburdened transit system.
For starters, the mayor should implement a moratorium on the NYPD’s enforcement against electric bikes. And while he does that, Albany should act to legalize them. That is why I am introducing a City Council resolution in support of legislation sponsored by state Sen. Martin Dilan (D-Brooklyn) and Assemblyman David Gantt (D-Rochester), which would include electric-assisted bicycles in the definition of “bicycle” and thereby permit their use.
New York City is experiencing a public transit crisis right now; all you have to do is ask one of the millions of people who ride the subway daily. With crisis comes opportunity. We must seize this chance to rethink our transit systems and plan our city in ways that take advantage of new, clean technology. Electric bikes are a low-cost, ecofriendly and space-efficient option that we should embrace.
Going full steam ahead on electric transit — whether that means new public buses or bicycles — will bring us a long way toward reducing our carbon footprint, with big health and environmental benefits. While President Trump fights on the side of coal in the supposed war on the dirty fuel, we must insist on smarter and bolder solutions.