Testimony on Proposed NYC DOT Rule to Clarify that Pedal-Assist Bicycles are Legal to Operate in NYC
Before the New York City Department of Transportation
Testimony by: Marco Conner, Legislative & Legal Director, Transportation Alternatives
Thank you Commissioner Trottenberg for convening this public hearing. While we strongly commend the NYC DOT for proposing these rules, this agency and Mayor de Blasio must take additional immediate steps to correct the City’s harmful and inequitable policing against working cyclists using electric bicycles, which targets hard working, low-wage immigrant New Yorkers.
Current e-bike policy in NYC remains detached from safety data and well-informed public policy. In fact, the increased enforcement against working cyclists by this Administration is based on no safety data at all. This NYPD enforcement, which singles out one group of New Yorkers, is part of a dark past of institutionally biased and disparate policing that the current Administration should be moving far beyond instead of solidifying.
Police resources must be spent on known dangers. And while people's fear of e-bikes should be acknowledged and addressed, what we know is that last year more than 50,000 people were injured in NYC traffic, and 214 people were killed by cars and trucks. In fact, since 2001, more than 5,000 people in NYC have lost their lives to traffic violence – and more than 99% of those deaths are caused by cars and trucks, not by people riding e-bikes. In fact, on average less than one person on average dies from being hit by a cyclist annually. Reckless driving by motorists, failing to yield by motorists, and speeding cars and trucks are the causes of this epidemic in our city - not people on bikes, and certainly not working cyclists on e-bikes.
The Mayor, with the NYC DOT’s leadership, should devote more resources to address those known fatal dangers, and immediately stop targeting low-wage, immigrant New Yorkers trying to deliver meals to their fellow residents and trying to provide for themselves and their families.
Transportation Alternatives is part of the #DeliverJustice Coalition together with the Legal Aid Society, Make the Road New York, Biking Public Project and Asian American Federation. For New York City to move beyond its current inequitable policing of working cyclists we call upon DOT and the City to take the following five steps:
- Modify Current Enforcement Practices: Issue a moratorium on enforcement against the use and possession of e-bikes until a New York City regulatory framework has been fully implemented.
- Establish Regulations for E-bike Conversion: Issue guidelines and requirements for converting Class 2 and 3 throttle e-bikes (those e-bikes commonly used by working cyclists in NYC) into soon-to-be legalized Class 1 pedal-assist e-bikes.
- Fund a Non-Onerous Pathway to Convert All E-Bikes: Establish a program that provides financial and practical assistance to e-bike owners for conversion.
- Educate All Parties: Educate the public, workers, and NYPD about the above changes.
- Create Transparency: Start recording and publishing detailed data of e-bicyclists’ involvement in traffic crashes so that our city’s e-bike enforcement and public policy is based on sound public data and is detached from any institutional bias and disparate impacts based on class or ethnicity.