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Pols and Residents Rally for Crackdown on Illegal Electric Bikes

Donald McCallian (right) said he had witnessed two incidents which involved e-bike users and seniors on wheelchair
Donald McCallian (right) said he had witnessed two incidents which involved e-bike users and seniors on wheelchair
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DNAinfo/Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska

SUNNYSIDE — Donald McCallian, 75, says he has to be very careful walking around his neighborhood because the riders of speeding, electric bikes seem intent on terrorizing pedestrians.

In fact, he said that he witnessed two incidents recently in which e-bike users collided with seniors in wheelchairs.

“There are a lot of seniors in this neighborhood," said McCallian, a Community Board 2 member. “In one case a senior was knocked out of her wheelchair."

The electric bikes, which use an electric motor used to power the vehicle and can accelerate much faster than regular bikes, are illegal in New York City, but many restaurants and businesses that rely on deliveries use them, officials said.

They have drawn complaints in neighborhoods around the city, including the Upper East Side, where local pols say they have created a nightmare for pedestrians. Residents said e-bike riders also often run red lights and ride against traffic.

At a rally Thursday in Queens, Sunnyside residents and elected officials said that they had seen a significant increase in the number of those bikes in the neighborhood in the past few months.

“They just zoom by,” said another resident Leonore Lanzillotti. “And no one expects that on the sidewalk.”

Councilman Dan Garodnick introduced a bill that will double the fines issued to the e-bike operators.

“Navigating our city streets is difficult enough without many cyclists who are riding illegal bikes,” he said.

Under the legislation, the maximum fine for riding an e-bike on a sidewalk would increase from $100 to $200. A fine for running a red light for the first time would increase from the range of $150-450 to $300-900, according to Garodnick.

“These bikes are illegal to begin with”, Garodnick said, adding the police have the authority to confiscate e-bikes and can issue fines to their users.

He said he hoped that doubling the fines would be a deterrent. “Fines related to their operation should be greater than [those related to] other traffic violations,” he said.

Garodnick, who represents the Upper East Side, said the problem is citywide. He also said he hoped the bill would be discussed in the City Council this fall.

Local councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who is one of the bill’s sponsors, said that the e-bikes “have become an epidemic of reckless driving” in his district, which includes Sunnyside, Long Island City and Woodside.

He added he has seen the bikes throughout his district, including on Queens Boulevard, Skillman Avenue, 46 Street and Greenpoint Avenue.