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Electric Scooters and Bikes Bring New Safety Challenges to the Big Apple

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo Plotkin & Hellman LLP

The COVID-19 pandemic brought many changes to urban life, some permanent and other temporary.  The new fad in navigating New York City’s streets however seems here to stay.  Electric scooters and bikes are ubiquitous and provide many benefits. They take up little space, there isn’t a problem with parking and they environmentally friendly.  However, there are safety concerns with these new modes of travel.

According to the NY Times, “At least 17 people have been killed while riding electric mobility vehicles this year, according to city officials. Revel, which operates an electric moped share program in the city, voluntarily shut it down for a month last year after three riders were killed.

E-mobility crashes have also killed three pedestrians this year, including the actress Lisa Banes, who was knocked down by a hit-and-run scooter rider on the Upper West Side.

Many pedestrians and cyclists complain about e-bike and e-scooter riders who speed, ride on sidewalks and run red lights and go the wrong way on streets.

“The e-bikes, they don’t mind which way they have to go, how they go, where they go, even if they go on the sidewalk or the opposite way on a street,” said Jacqueline Aybar, 53, who recently had a near miss with an e-bike in a Queens crosswalk. “Now when you’re crossing the street, it’s not just looking for a car, you have to look to see if any bike is coming.”

Traffic laws haven’t kept up with the new technology since they are designed for cars, trucks, and motorcycles.  The Times reports, “City and state officials have scrambled to keep up with the rapid e-mobility expansion. Most e-bikes and e-scooters only became legal on city streets last year, though delivery workers have long ridden them. Unlike cars, they are not registered or licensed or required to have insurance or cited by automatic speeding cameras.  Other kinds of e-mobility devices are illegal, including skateboards, unicycles, hoverboards and Segways.”

These new modes of transportation will challenge safety officials to keep our streets and sidewalks safe while allowing for the safe and legal use of e-scooters and electric bikes.  Time will tell if they are up to the task.

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