July 12, 2012 By Liz Peterson
Pedestrians in the city might soon be just a little bit safer – at least from electric-assisted bicycles, known as E-bikes.
Councilman Dan Garodnick (Upper East Side) has introduced legislation that would double the fines for e-bikes found to be breaking traffic laws, such as running red lights, riding on the sidewalk or riding against traffic. So far, eight other council members, including councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, have signed onto the bill, titled Intro 596.
Today, several Sunnyside community members, business owners and Van Bramer joined Garodnick in a show of support for the bill under the arch at 46th Street to draw attention to their danger.
Despite their widespread use, Garodnick and Van Bramer both said that e-bikes are illegal in New York City. The council members hope that the stiffer fines enacted by the new legislation will reduce their use and encourage business owners to stop using e-bikes as delivery vehicles.
Van Bramer said the bill aims to combat “an epidemic of reckless driving,” where many e-bike riders zip around the neighborhood with little regard for residents.
Garodnick added these bikes are “deceptively fast.” A pedestrian might see a bike coming, think they have time to get out of the way, and be flattened before knowing it.
The number of constituent complaints concerning e-bikes continues to rise, both councilmen said. In this district, Sunnyside resident Leonore Lanzillotti spoke about how she was nearly killed by a speeding e-bike that made a left turn on a red light as she was crossing the street with the signal.
The bill was introduced by Garodnick in June and could be voted on as early as September if all goes according to schedule. Before the council votes on it, the bill must have a public hearing, which is still being scheduled.
The fines currently range from $100 for riding on the sidewalk, up to $450 for running a red light. These fines would be doubled under the new legislation.
“We would like to see more summons issued,” Van Bramer said, adding that he’s spoken to the 108th Precinct about the need for more enforcement and that they were “very responsive.”