Safety in the streets and the sidewalks
by Kathleen Lees
Jul 18, 2012 | 963 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
If there’s one place you should feel safe, it’s on the sidewalk.

This was the message at a rally at the northeast corner of 46th St. and Queens Boulevard on Thursday. Council members Jimmy Van Bramer and Dan Garodnick joined local Queens residents to discuss the dangers of electric-assisted bikes, also known as e-bikes. They are illegal in New York under city and state laws, but many are still ridden on city streets.

Van Bramer called the problem with e-bikes an “epidemic” all over the city. The e-bikes are often ridden on the sidewalk or against traffic.

“There’s nothing more dangerous for a senior citizen or a child who is not expecting to see not just a bike but an electric bike that is going much faster on the sidewalk or street,” he said.

Garodnick is sponsoring Intro 596, which doubles the fines for violations already related to the e-bikes. He said the bill for e-bikes includes increasing fines for running a red light, traveling or riding on the sidewalk.

“For example, the maximum fine for riding an e-bike on the sidewalk would increase from $100 to $200,” Garodnick said. “The fine for running a red light for the first time would increase from the current range of $150 to $450 to $900.”

Garodnick stressed that they are working with the Department of Transportation (DOT) to step up basic enforcement identification rules for small businesses that often use e-bikes as a way of transportation for employees and food delivery.

“These rules are frequently disregarded,” Van Bramer said.

He stressed that the use of the illegal bikes was a citywide issue, calling on a resident who had been injured by one. Leonore Lanzillotti, a resident of Sunnyside, spoke regarding an accident on Greenpoint Avenue when she was crossing the street.

“I was almost killed,” she said.

Damon Victor, owner of Greenpath Electric Bikes at 4204 3rd Ave. in Brooklyn, disagreed about e-bikes as a health hazard. He supports them as an alternative means of transportation.

“Some people want the freedom of an automobile but can’t afford it,” Victor said. “They need an alternative way of getting around and find it more economically satisfactory.”

Victor stressed that other metropolitan areas in the United States, such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, have legalized the use of e-bikes as a means of transportation.

However, Victor expressed his concern regarding the commercial use of e-bikes. He said he believed these are the people causing the problems. “They’re not from New York and they aren’t familiar with the laws,” he said. “These are the people you see riding on the sidewalk, and they shouldn’t ruin the use of these bikes for everybody else.”

As of Friday, July 13, DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, City Council members Gale Brewer, Jessica Lappin, Dan Garodnick, and Council Transportation Committee Chairman James Vacca, announced a new program to educate businesses on requirements for delivery cyclists, whether riding an e-bike or a traditional bicycle.

The first-ever commercial cyclist outreach and enforcement unit was activated on Monday, a six-person team of DOT inspectors who go door-to-door on the Upper West Side moving to the Upper East Side, providing information to hundreds of restaurants and other businesses that employ cyclists on their existing legal requirements, including providing a helmet, identifying apparel and identification numbers.

After six months, businesses that fail to comply with the commercial cycling laws may receive a violation resulting in a fine from $100 to $300.

For a full list of safe biking requirements, go to nyc.gov/dot.

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