Priscilla Loke, a 69-year-old Chinatown preschool teacher, was killed by an electric CitiBike on Sept. 5. On Sept. 15 a 59-year-old woman was critically injured by a wrong-way e-CitiBike in Murray Hill — as of Sept. 28, we were told she remains in a coma.
Police have identified the CitiBike rider who fatally struck Loke — and who, The Village Sun believes, based on our own observation of the traffic light patterns at the Grand and Chrystie streets intersection — blew through the red light. However, police are so far not sharing results of their investigation — or the police-camera video from the scene.
In the case of the Murray Hill incident, the cyclist appears to still be in the wind.
Given the ever-increasing amount of e-bikes and mopeds — not to mention stand-up e-scooters, e-skateboards, monowheels and more — and the increasing amount of serious injuries and, yes, fatalities, it’s high time New York City finally address this Wild West situation. New York City is densely packed and with a straight north-south / east-west street grid that enables high-speed traffic. With the boom of food-delivery apps, we now have a serious safety crisis that has made the city immensely more dangerous for pedestrians — especially the elderly — this in what was once one of the world’s most pedestrian-friendly of metropolises.
There are at least two pieces of legislation our lawmakers should pass — one in New York City, one in New York State — to help rein in reckless e-bikes and mopeds.
Intro 0758-2022, introduced by Councilmember Robert Holden, would require all e-bikes to be registered — meaning including having a license plate. His bill — as posted on the New York City Council Web site — states it would also require registration of all other small vehicles not currently required to be registered by the state Department of Motor Vehicles, including electric scooters. However, at a Sept. 27 meeting of the new E-Vehicle Safety Alliance, Holden said it’s mainly e-bikes that are concerned.
His bill currently has 28 Council sponsors, a majority. Because Speaker Adrienne Adams is not one of them, the bill cannot automatically go before the full Council for a vote. Six more councilmembers are needed to force a vote.
Among those not currently supporting the bill are Councilmembers Carlina Rivera and Christopher Marte. Marte told us he thinks Holden’s bill would be ineffective since mopeds currently are required to be registered, but obviously many are riding around illegally without license plates, going on sidewalks, etc.
He added the program would be too costly, take years to implement and be “a waste of taxpayer resources.” He instead supports a Council bill by Lynn Schulman that would hold delivery apps liable for fines for violations by contracted two-wheeled delivery persons, like riding on sidewalks.
Frankly, sorry, but that’s a bit ingenuous. The city is spending billions of dollars to house immigrants seeking asylum and economic opportunity. During the pandemic, the city launched a citywide outdoor dining restaurant program — with more than 1,000 sheds — which continues to this day. E-bike registration can — and should — be done. So, when there is an accident, license plate No. 12345, or whichever, can be held accountable.
Marte noted that he also previously introduced a bill making it illegal for delivery apps to advertise guaranteed 15- or 20-minute deliveries, feeling this contributes to the mayhem on the streets. But Andrew Fine, a co-founder of EVSA, just shrugged when we told him of that idea, noting there are myriad industries that reward individuals — like the delivery guys, who are independent contractors — for doing things fast. It’s true: Speed is a cornerstone of capitalism, for better or worse.
In a statement, Rivera told us: “While the rise of e-bike usage in our city streets has many concerned about our urban landscape, the city must stay focused on rules enforcement, efficient redesign of our streets, pedestrianizing open spaces, and increasing bus and bike lane networks to maximize public safety for all. With e-bikes enhancing opportunities for working people and those with limited mobility, the Council must be responsible in our role and the role of our state colleagues in licensing solutions. My office is currently working on legislation to be introduced that will meaningfully impact how e-bikes impact the public realm.”
Yes, street-design improvements are needed and will help. And, yes, the delivery workers need jobs — however, not at the expense of all New Yorkers’ safety. Sorry, but hyperfast delivery of nonessential cheeseburgers, acai bowls and pepperoni pizza does not trump people’s basic right to walk safely in this city. … Let’s. Get. Our. Priorities. Straight.
Clearly, we disagree with Rivera and Marte. We feel strongly that Holden’s e-bikes bill should be approved.
We also back bill A08052 by Assemblymember Alex Bores, which would require any moped, upon purchase, to be registered and given a license plate. Liz Krueger in the state Senate is working on similar legislation.
Call your representatives and — if they are currently not supporting these bills — urge them to. As a friend of Priscilla Loke told us, “We don’t want Priscilla’s death to be in vain.”