NEW YORK — In the past few years, the use of e-bikes, e-scooters, battery-powered mopeds and other two- or three-wheeled vehicles has grown exponentially in New York City. Similarly, crimes related to them — from minor infractions to major crimes — have grown in number as well.
As a result, complaints about the so-called micromobility vehicles have also increased. Now there are calls for closer scrutiny of e-bikes and e-scooters by law enforcement, as well as proposed new legislation that would regulate them more strongly.
It all stems from the proliferation of the powered two- and three-wheelers. There are no official numbers kept for them, since they’re not regulated. However, if Citibike e-bike rides are any indication, they’ve increased 250 percent from 2020 to last year.
What has also seen a rise in number are stories like one shared by John Luisi, an Upper East Side resident.
“A woman in my building,” he said, “about two months ago, she was crossing Third Avenue, and a bike was coming down the wrong side of the street and hit her, and she died.”
Luisi’s neighborhood has the highest number of 311 complaints in the city about e-bikes, scooters, and other non-car vehicles. However, complaints about incidents come from across the five boroughs.
Anne Long, who lives on Roosevelt Island, said that in her neighborhood, she sees e-bikes and e-scooters “[On the] sidewalk, a lot. A lot.”
Across the city, official complaints, as first reported by the news website THE CITY, have gone from 484 in 2019 to 1,036 last year. This year, the number of complaints is at 1,082, with two months still to go.
Sigal Hirsch, who lives on the Upper East Side, said that she’s all too familiar with situations of e-bikes being in spaces where they don’t belong.
“A lot of instances where you’re walking down the sidewalk,” she said, describing what she’s experienced repeatedly, “and suddenly you’re dodging to get out of the way of somebody who’s coming at you, high speed. It’s scary.”
Even more disturbing, said Pace University criminologist and former NYPD lieutenant Darrin Porcher, PhD, is that more serious crimes involving perpetrators on e-scooters and e-bikes are becoming more frequent.
Those crimes, include a shooting in Sunset Park, Brooklyn last week by an e-scooter driver who hit multiple unoccupied cars, are becoming higher in number. A man on an e-scooter of some kind also allegedly attacked and sexually assaulted women last month in Fort Tryon Park in Upper Manhattan.
Porcher called for greater NYPD action.
“Carve out an additional unit that can have the sole focus of looking at these people that are on these e-bikes, scooters and dirt bikes,” he said.
One way to gain greater scrutiny over those types of vehicles would be to have them registered with police and other authorities, Porcher said.
City Councilmember Robert Holden has now introduced a bill that would do that. He said that it becomes increasingly important to carry out regulation as the number of non-car e-vehicles increases.
His bill, he said, “requires that all two- or three-wheeled vehicles be registered, plated, and driven with a license, and, of course, insured.”
Holden said that he was confident that his bill will get a hearing before the City Council before the year is over.