Bad apples who speed, ignore red lights, and cycle on the wrong side of the street have caused a growing movement to restrict e-bikes in New York.

Council Member Robert Holden is at the forefront of this campaign. Holden has introduced a bill that would require all e-bikes in New York to be licensed. According to Streetsblog, the bill is supported by a majority of Holden’s council colleagues.

Holden’s bill is problematic. It fails to establish a clear and efficient process for individuals to obtain a license. This creates an additional burden that can be time-consuming and costly.

However, the worst part of the bill is that it will deter e-biking without addressing the root causes of conflicts between different road users. Inadequate infrastructure and unsafe working conditions are the primary sources of these conflicts.

The real causes of e-bike accidents

New York City already provides limited space for pedestrians. Cars often obstruct crosswalks, pushing pedestrians into poorly connected bike lanes.

Meanwhile, e-bikers often express frustration with insufficient bike infrastructure. They have to contend with speeding motorists who disregard their presence, forcing them to take risks.

Low-wage delivery work exacerbates these challenges further. Many delivery workers accept orders from various areas of the city, and their earnings are often tied to their efficiency. This forces delivery workers to cycle quickly, which can jeopardize their own safety and that of pedestrians.

E-bike licensing doesn’t address the underlying problems of limited space and dangerous workplace practices. While there may be some improvements in pedestrian safety resulting from the passage of Holden’s bill, it would also lead to a decline in e-bike usage.

And by reducing e-bike usage, Holden’s bill will make e-bikers less safe. E-bikers rely on safety in numbers. The fewer e-bikers who are on the street, the harder it will be for safe cycling infrastructure to be implemented.

What should be done instead

There are better solutions available to enhance safety for pedestrians without compromising e-bike usability. This includes creating wider sidewalks, installing more speed cameras, and building more e-bike charging stations.

To truly prioritize pedestrian safety, it’s crucial to apply pressure on car drivers, who pose a much bigger threat compared to e-bikers. Illegal parking and inattentive drivers are often the cause of e-bike accidents.

A 2021 study found that 93 percent of pedestrian injuries in New York were caused by cars. Only 4 percent were caused by e-bikes or other micromobility devices.

Structural changes may require sacrificing travel lanes and parking spaces. It’s important for elected officials to be willing to make those adjustments.

While additional regulation for e-bikes may be necessary to prevent injuries and fatalities, it’s also vital for New Yorkers to embrace e-bikes as affordable and eco-friendly transportation options aligned with their climate goals.

New Yorkers don’t have to choose between protecting pedestrians and protecting e-bikers.

Image Source: New York Times,