The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Fines Against Electric Bikes Could Double Under Pol's Plan

By DNAinfo Staff on February 28, 2012 4:55pm

City Councilwoman Jessica Lappin and state Sen. Liz Krueger at a Tuesday press conference about cracking down on electric bikes.
City Councilwoman Jessica Lappin and state Sen. Liz Krueger at a Tuesday press conference about cracking down on electric bikes.
View Full Caption
DNAinfo/Trevor Kapp

By Trevor Kapp and Amy Zimmer

DNAinfo Staff

CITY HALL — Battery-powered electric bikes, often used by delivery workers, aren't legal in the city, and City Councilwoman Jessica Lappin is hoping to put the brakes on them.

Lappin is expected to introduce legislation Wednesday that would double fines to $1,000 for operating the motorized bikes, which can reach speeds of 30 mph. There have also been many reports of riders breaking traffic laws, said Lappin, whose Upper East Side constituents have been clamoring for the city to clamp down on motorized bicycles.

''There is a growing number of them on our streets. They are a nightmare for pedestrians," Lappin said Tuesday. ''My office receives constant complaints about them riding on the sidewalks, traveling opposite traffic, running red lights, just being reckless and dangerous."

David Pollack, executive director of Committee for Taxi Safety, called electric bikes "a menace to society," adding, "something needs to be done."

Rule-breaking cyclists of all kinds are among the top quality-of-life complaints on the Upper East Side, and the outcry over electric bikes has increased as they become more prevalent, Community Board 8 Chairman Nicholas Viest said.

"Members of our community and, in particular, senior citizens have expressed concerns about the recent increase in electric bicycle usage and the hazards posed by these vehicles," he said in a statement.

Community Board 8 has called for electric bikes to be treated as motorized vehicles and be registered and licensed by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Lappin's office conducted a survey of 1,305 constituents, finding that 72 percent of those polled said they have been hit or nearly hit by a delivery bike; 70 percent said the city does not enforce bike rules enough; and 69 percent said they wanted to city to raise fines for operating the illegal electric bikes.

For restaurants, the use of these bikes — which involve less energy to pedal when the electric motor kicks in — has helped them expand their delivery zones and given a boost to workers, who often work physically demanding and long days.

Victor Tu, the manager of Lili's Noodle Shop and Grill on Third Avenue and 85th Street, told DNAinfo last year he got rid of his deliverymen’s old bicycles and replaced them with a fleet of five electric bikes to improve his delivery time and double the restaurant's delivery zone.

"It’s much faster," Tu said. "We added 10 blocks."

Jenny Wu, assistant manager of Hunan Balcony, on the Upper West Side, told DNAinfo that the only one of her four deliverymen who didn't ride an electric bike was "strong and young."

"They work about eight hours a day," she said. "They're using their legs. It's very tiring. They're trying to save energy."