NEW YORK – The debate regarding unsafe e-bike usage continued Thursday night as Manhattan’s Community Board 5 fielded calls to action on zoom from residents of New York’s most densely populated district.
One Midtown resident, who was introduced on the Zoom meeting as Charles, voiced her concerns, saying she has witnessed e-bike riders running red lights and not yielding to pedestrians when they crossed the street.
“I’m really concerned about cyclists on the sidewalk, and also going the wrong way, and just going very fast as people are crossing in the crosswalk,” the Midtown resident said.
Another community member at Thursday’s meeting reported seeing a cyclist hit a tourist, calling the incident “absolutely terrifying,” noting that the pedestrian had been crossing the street during a designated walk signal in the Flatiron District. They then called on Board members to find ways to regulate e-bikes in the area.
Motorized vehicles, which include e-bikes and e-scooters, have seen a 20% increase in incidents compared to last year, according to data from the New York City Police Department. In June alone, 266 reports concerning the vehicles were made — an all-time high.
New York City streets have long been shared by commuters, all vying for the same limited space. Since 2020, e-bike riders have been permitted to use bike lanes at speeds of up to 25 mph. Along with other community districts, Community Board 5 – which includes Times Square within its borders – has long opposed the legalization of e-bikes without contingent regulations. Permits or licenses are not required to ride the vehicles.
Many board members argue that without concrete means to regulate e-bike users, pedestrians will continue to be subjected to dangerous conditions. By enacting regulations, law enforcement would be able to crack down on any unsafe usage of the vehicles.
In the three years since the Board first opposed e-bike legalization, New York City Council has chosen not to pass laws that would result in legal ramifications for individuals who violate traffic safety laws.
The legalization of e-bikes was largely seen as a win for delivery workers, many of whom depend on speed of transit for their livelihoods, according to advocacy group Los Deliveristas Unidos. However, as accidents and fatalities are on the rise, the lack of e-bike regulation is quickly becoming a major issue that many community boards are responding to.
“The recent uptick in e-bikes being ridden on sidewalks and the wrong way on one-way avenues, combined with the silence and speed of these devices, makes calls for their regulation by pedestrians more pointed,” said Mark Diller, Community Board 7 transport committee co-chair in response to further questions later that week.
Despite these concerns, Lyft announced earlier this year that the ridesharing company will be rolling out more e-bikes in the city.
Community Board 5 Chairperson Vikki Barbero could not offer concrete solutions during Thursday’s meeting, recommending that those concerned should instead attend transport committee meetings. Barbero added that this issue remains “a very large concern for all of us.”