Electric bikes, popular among messengers but a nuisance for many New Yorkers who have to dodge them on the street, may get legalized by Albany.
The so-called e-bikes, which have been banned in the city since 2004, would be permitted for businesses and regulated under a bills proposed by state Sen. Jose Peralta and state Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas, both of Queens.
Peralta said the bikes are prevalent throughout the city, especially with takeout restaurants, and the operators have caused headaches for pedestrians as they ride on sidewalks, go in the wrong direction and zip through traffic.
“I constantly hear stories from constituents on how they almost got sent to the hospital because they missed getting hit by the bikes,” he said. “If it’s going to exist anyway, then let’s do it right.”
New Yorkers, however are mixed on whether the bikes or the riders need that oversight.
Under the bill, e-bike users would have to obey the speed limit, wear a helmet, and follow the rules of the road or face fines, points on their license and possible “criminal penalties.”
Representatives from the Department of Motor Vehicles declined to comment. The city banned the bikes 11 years ago due to safety concerns and two years ago, it raised the fines for riders and businesses that illegally use them to $250 a violation.
Under current law, police can also confiscate the bikes The state bill, however, doesn’t effect casual e-bike riders.
Current DMV license and regulations govern two or three wheeled vehicles that have “an internal combustion engine, or electric, solar or hybrid motor which will propel the vehicle unassisted at a maximum speed no greater than 30 mph.”
The DMV doesn’t register motorized scooters, motorized assisted bikes or off-road bikes.
When asked about the bill yesterday, some New Yorkers called the bikes a nuisance.
“They almost hit me all the time. They ride on the sidewalks and they disregard light signals,” said Steve Petrillo, 52, of Hell’s Kitchen.
The e-bikes are part of the city’s growing bike community as added lanes, CitiBike and other initiatives have helped to make riding easier. Last year, the city’s transportation department recorded about 21,112 daily bike commuters, nearly three times the number in 2004.
Malik N’dere, 24, of the Bronx who works part time as a delivery person, said he was more annoyed because some riders can’t determine if they belong on the road with cars or on the side with regular bikes.
“In the bike lane, I don’t like them. We need a new lane for them,” he said.
Jason Fen, cashier at Aya Sushi in midtown, however, did see many advantages to the electric bikes since “they are easy to park,” and save time and agreed they should be legalized.
Marco Conner, the legislative and legal manager at the transit watchdog group Transportation Alternatives, said his group doesn’t have data on the number of accidents or injuries caused by electric bikes but said they haven’t received many complaints from people.
He agreed that the electric bikes should have some form of regulation, however he hoped the state could separate the electric motored two wheelers from the add-on devices used for bicycles go a bit faster.
“It should make that distinction and spell out electric bikes that are not capable of that propulsion of more than 20 mph,” he said of the bills.
Peralta said the legislation should be hitting the assembly and senate floor next week and predicted that his colleagues will back it.
“There is an understanding that New Yorkers want their food as quickly as possible but they also want people to be safe,” he said.
Shawn Grey, dispatcher for Supreme Systems, a midtown messenger service said the law wouldn’t affect his messengers much because they all ride regular bikes. “They want to stay in shape. . . . Sometimes you don’t need to fix something that’s not broken.”