Big Apple bike boom battered by batteries

Two recent articles in phys.org highlight issues of intervention by the authorities and unintended consequences.

Biking is booming: in New York.

phys.org

Expanding bike lanes, handing out free helmets and making lessons free: New York is making great strides in encouraging pedal power at the expense of exhaust fumes, even if some cyclists are still nervous about navigating bottleneck traffic.

For years, the city of 8.5 million—which has the most extensive public transport network in the United States—stood and watched the bike boom take off in European capitals.

In 2013, then billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg launched the Citi Bike sharing scheme and since then, New York has seen the fastest growth rate in cycle use of any big US city.

“The city has come a long ways in terms of having a much stronger commitment to promoting bicycling,” says Rich Conroy, education director for Bike New York, a non-profit organization that encourages safe cycling.

“People realize we can’t grow as a city by building more streets and adding more cars,” explained Conroy.[…]

In the last five years, the city’s department of transportation has expanded and enhanced the on-street bike network by nearly 300 miles (480 kilometers).

Around 86,000 New Yorkers—2.5 percent of the population—now use a bike to get to work or school.

However, attach a battery and motor to your bicycle and cop a fine of  up to $500 or have your bike confiscated. (nearly 1000 in 2017)

[…]City officials are promising a crackdown on e-bikes, which may be loved by environmentalists and the largely poor, immigrant workforce that relies on them, but are loathed by many drivers and pedestrians who think they are a menace.

Under city law, the bikes are legal to own and sell, but riding them on the street can lead to a fine of up to $500. Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio announced this fall that starting in 2018, businesses that have employees use the bikes are also subject to a fine of $100 for a first offense and $200 for each subsequent offense.

“Electric bikes are illegal to operate on city streets and those at the top of the food chain need to be held accountable,” city spokesman Austin Finan said. “Instead of merely targeting riders, we’re going after businesses that look the other way and leave their workers to shoulder the fine.”

That policy will undoubtedly prove popular with many New Yorkers who have complained that the bikes, which look and handle just like regular bicycles but can reach speeds of 20 mph or more, are often operated recklessly. Lots of people have stories about close calls where they stepped out into the street, only to nearly be hit by a quick-moving bike they couldn’t hear coming.[…]

[…]Advocates for alternate forms of transportation say the crackdown also doesn’t make sense from an environmental or safety perspective.

Gas-powered mopeds, which are faster and heavier than e-bikes, continue to be legal under state law, although they must be registered and the driver must be licensed. A business using one for deliveries also has to have insurance.

Some cycling advocacy groups have challenged the city to produce data showing whether the e-bikes pose any unusual danger, compared to other vehicles.

“In the realm of enforcement, data needs to be the impetus,” said Caroline Samponaro, deputy director of Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy organization. “I don’t think enforcement is the solution to the problem we’re trying to solve.”

Federal law allows electric bicycles that go 20 mph or less to be treated as bicycles for product safety and standards, but New York state law doesn’t allow them to be registered or licensed as motorized vehicles.

It must be so tough for the New Yorkers to keep up; cars bad – bikes good, electric cars good – electric bikes bad.

Declaration of interest: I enjoy riding my electric bike!


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In solidarity with the those in the world’s most despised demographic, WH has decided to ‘come out’ as an old white male. WH enjoys exercising the white-male privilege that Whaleoil provides for him by writing the occasional post challenging climate change consensus; looking at random tech issues that tweak his interest, as a bit of a tech nerd; or generally poking the borax at anyone in public life who goes on record revealing their stupidity. WH never excelled on the sports field because his coaches never allowed him to play in his preferred position on the right-wing. WH also enjoys his MG.

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