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Hudson River greenway goes electric — but enforcement seems short-circuited

BY OTTO FRITTON | Though the Hudson River greenway lays claim to being the most heavily used bicycle route in the United States, there is an ongoing struggle over enforcement of the bike path’s rules and regulations for electric vehicles, as well as the protection of pedestrians crossing the path.

E-vehicles are explicitly banned on the greenway. But during a 15-minute span at Pier 25 in Tribeca on Tues., June 4, 64 e-vehicles — or more than four per minute — were spotted zipping by on the bike path. Over all, about 15 percent of these were delivery workers. Of the 64, 55 were e-bikes (mainly electric Citi Bikes), six were mopeds and three were electric scooters. As for traditional pedal-powered bikes that were also passing by, they were outnumbered by e-bikes by around two to one.

According to Daniel Miller, former vice chairperson and current public member of the Community Board 2 Traffic and Transportation Committee, the greenway’s main problems stem from a lack of enforcement and an unwillingness for other agencies to take responsibility from the New York State Department of Transportation.

A man rides an e-monowheel, at left, on the Hudson River Greenway in Chelsea. Monowheels — most of which can hit top speeds of up to 40 miles per hour— are not legal in New York City. Also not legal are electric skateboards, Segways, hoverboards and mopeds without license plates. (Photo by The Village Sun)

“The Greenway falls under New York State D.O.T. jurisdiction and has been largely ignored as cycling usage has multiplied over the years,” Miller said. “The lack of enforcement of the rules perpetuates bad behavior. The problem is solvable but no one wants to take responsibility for change, given there are so many agencies charged with policing and maintaining the greenway.”

Complicating matters, while state D.O.T. is responsible for maintaining the greenway, the New York Police Department is responsible for enforcing the rules. Although, in practice, this shouldn’t be a problem, according to Miller, the police don’t see enforcing the bike path’s rules as a high priority. Meanwhile, the Hudson River Park Trust has a maintenance contract for the greenway.

Although state D.O.T. has posted signs stating that e-bikes and other electric-motorized micro-mobility vehicles and motorized vehicles, in general, are illegal on the bikeway, a lack of enforcement by the N.Y.P.D. means that they are often ignored. (For its part, the Trust has posted signs in Hudson River Park saying cyclists must dismount in the park.)

Meanwhile, pedestrians similarly complain that there is scant police enforcement against speedy or dangerous e-vehicle users on the city’s streets.

A Trust spokesperson basically echoed Miller, saying it’s not the joint state-city park authority’s responsibility but that of the N.Y.P.D. to enforce the rules regarding e-biking — or the laws in general — along the Hudson River bike path.

The other major issue is that many of the speedy e-bikes on the Hudson River bikeway are delivery vehicles. Much of the explosion in e-bike popularity is attributed to delivery drivers, often referred to as the “heroes” of the COVID-19 pandemic. With e-bikes, the cyclists could deliver food more efficiently and increase the number of deliveries they made, increasing their wages and tips. They are mostly minimum-wage workers and an extra five or so deliveries per day may constitute a necessary difference in their lives.

Riding “fat tire” e-bikes along the Hudson River Greenway in Chelsea. (Photo by The Village Sun)

For delivery drivers, without enough protected North/South bike paths on the far West Side of Lower Manhattan, the greenway is a safe and practical choice — plus, faster. However, in recent years, e-bikes have been facing pushback from pedestrian groups who say their riders are often dangerous and lawless. With the pandemic over and people having returned to everyday activities, many say they feel threatened by darting e-bikes — which can reach speeds of nearly 30 miles per hour — whether on city streets or on bike paths, like the Hudson River greenway. (Bikes are supposed to be walked in Hudson River Park itself.)

A Tribeca mother who asked to remain anonymous said pedestrians — particularly with young children — now must be extra-careful simply while walking.

“People won’t stop,” she said, speaking at Pier 25. “It’s hazardous, especially as a mother of a young child. I’d be much more comfortable and confident walking around this area if there weren’t bikes constantly flying by me.”

Last June, the city launched a pilot program to allow e-bikes and lightweight e-scooters on city park drives and greenways. The Hudson River bikeway, though, again, is under state D.O.T. jurisdiction, so is not included in the pilot.

As for potential solutions, Miller said the first step is taking responsibility.

“If New York State D.O.T. is not going to address the increasing dangers of the greenway, jurisdiction should be transferred to another agency, such as New York City D.O.T.,” Miller stated. “The problem is solvable but no one wants to take responsibility for change, given there are so many agencies charged with policing and maintaining the greenway.”

The next step is thinking outside of the box — or rather outside of the bikeway.

As do some others, Miller believes that one of the eight lanes of New York State Route 9A (West Side Highway) should be set aside for delivery bikes, e-bikes and e-micro-mobility vehicles whose users who want to go faster than 15 miles per hour. This solution — previously pitched by Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine — would include enforcing a 15-mile-per-hour speed limit on the greenway and promoting safety for electric vehicle users and pedestrians.

18 Comments

  1. Kate Walter Kate Walter July 14, 2024

    Thank you for running this piece and for the many comments.
    As someone who lives across the street from Hudson River Park, I feel like I’m taking my life in my hands when I cross the bike pathway. Years ago, I wrote about the danger when I was a columnist for AM-NY- and that was before the e-bike explosion. The situation is much worse now, especially during summer weekends. It is way out of control.

    And it is even more dangerous crossing at night when the pedestrians are less visible. Last Saturday night I was coming back from a show at the Little Island at around 10 o’clock, and while most of the vehicles had lights, almost every vehicle I saw was an e-bike or e-scooter speeding fast in the dark. For everyone’s safety, the rules against e-bikes and e-scooters on the bike path must be enforced.

  2. Rich Rich July 4, 2024

    I’ve made my statement to all the politicians and leaders in my district. This crisis began in 2020 and it is unbelievable that it has come to the chaos that now exists in this city. If our elected officials have not addressed properly and remedied this situation by their next election, I will not only not vote for them but actively campaign against them, calling them out for their dereliction of duties, their deaf ears turned toward their constituents, and their suspected allegiance to the Alternate Transportation Cartel. I will vote for whomever, be they Red or Blue, who convinces me they will make it safer for me to cross the street in my neighborhood.

  3. Jay Z Jay Z July 3, 2024

    Mark Levine, other elected officials, TransAlt keep working for more resources for bicyclists — while subway riders and bus riders get less and pay more.
    Not OK.

    Plus, bicyclists siphon from use of bus and subway.

    Bicyclists are former mass transit users — not former drivers.

  4. Jay Esper Jay Esper July 3, 2024

    “How a Once Great Walking City Lost Control of Its Streets”

  5. Ron Wisniski Ron Wisniski July 3, 2024

    We have all had enough of this chaos and nonsense. The time has come for a simple solution. A COMPLETE AND TOTAL BAN ON ALL E-BIKES, E-SCOOTERS and all other E-things in all of New York City. No need to fight the uphill battle to license them to facilitate enforcement. Let’s make enforcement simple. If the police see anything on the streets powered by anything other than pedals, it gets confiscated and destroyed. No tickets to write. No forms to fill out. ROUND ‘EM ALL UP! Take ‘em to Hunt’s Point. Gas up the steamroller and end our misery. Then dismantle all bike lanes and fire anyone anywhere in city government who has any connection to the malevolent bicycle lobbyists of Transportation Alternatives. Now that would be utopia!

  6. Ted Todorov Ted Todorov July 3, 2024

    Speedbumps! And plenty of them!

  7. Susan Susan July 3, 2024

    The lack of regulation, the lack of enforcement everywhere in this city of reckless e-bikes, mopeds, etc. falls squarely on the Mayor, the City Council, the DOT and the Governor as well!! It’s rumored that the NYPD has been told with a wink and a nod to stand down. Legislation is SITTING with the state to license and register e-bikes. Why is it sitting?? Ask your assemblymembers. Bob Holden’s bill to license and register e-bikes is sitting with 31 supporters but can’t even get a hearing on the floor of the City Council. Ask Council Speaker Adrienne Adams why!! The Mayor talks a good game but is fine with New Yorkers getting hit and even killed by lawless e-bikers. It’s one of the most frequent severe injuries seen in ER trauma units. It’s one of the most frequent complaints at councilmembers’ offices.

    Call your elected leaders NOW! Join one of the only grassroots groups seeking regulation — nycevsa.org Never should anyone vote again for leaders who protect private interests over the safety of their constituents. That’s what’s happening here. Stop the madness.

  8. Steven G Hill Steven G Hill July 3, 2024

    Last paragraph of the above article seems like a reasonable solution as there is NOW ZERO Enforcement.
    Motorcycles, other gas-fired vehicles, Ninja types (full helmets, padded and all in black) speed dangerously, pro bikers in groups, especially on weekends, speed and weave between lanes, they also ignore all pedestrians and ATVs are also on the Greenway…When I ride for an hour I see at least 100 Violations per hour on a sunny daytime ride.

    “Miller believes that one of the eight lanes of New York State Route 9A (West Side Highway) should be set aside for delivery bikes, e-bikes and e-micro-mobility vehicles whose users who want to go faster than 15 miles per hour. This solution — previously pitched by Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine — would include enforcing a 15-mile-per-hour speed limit on the greenway and promoting safety for electric vehicle users and pedestrians.”

  9. S. Rogers S. Rogers July 3, 2024

    Thanks, Otto. You hit the nail on the head. There’s no enforcement and the many illegal vehicles you listed are rogue and dangerous. Thank you for properly citing them. As a regular cyclist, this path is now usually UN-RIDABLE AND HAZARDOUS, and that’s unacceptable and ridiculous.

    People are hit or nearly hit daily. This is a crisis.

    The e-vehicles should not be permitted but Citi Bike illegally captured space along the path with their bike racks, pushing this e-mobility crisis to a new height. E-vehicles are illegal on this path, the DOT is paid by Lyft, which owns Citi Bike, so, the DOT has no interest, it would seem, in assisting safety for NYers while their pocket is being lined. NYC DOT Commissioner Rodriguez has done a horrible job. Ignores public outcry, injuries and deaths.

    As for the deliveristas, many agree — cry me a river. Follow the laws. Any idiot knows red means STOP and green means GO, use a bell, and a light at night, don’t exceed the speed limit. They earn $20 an hour with the Mayor’s wage increase — and a group called Workers Justice Project, aka Los Deliveristas Unidos, refuses to hold their deliveristas accountable, even though it’s been said that the group was granted $1 million from Chuck Schumer and has had major financial support from the delivery apps. The riders are rude, egregious, dangerous and entitled.

    The Citi Bike program is horrific as well, absolutely no safety requirements. I was nearly hit by underage kids on e-powered Citi Bikes, illegal for children under 16 to ride. With a call center in Nicaragua, Lyft completely ignores this crisis, crimes are being committed using Citi Bikes, people are injured and even killed. The worst-managed program, and the NYC DOT Commissioner is complicit with it all. Citi Bike riders are constantly crossing into the opposing oncoming bike lane on the greenway to pass other riders. Riders are also entitled, no concern for others. Where are the Park Enforcement officers? On their cell phones in little vans, or not present at all!

    As a member of the more-than-800-member safety activist group NYC-E-Vehicle Safety Alliance, we have more than 80 victims in our ranks and that number is growing. Licensing and registration is key, and there are bills addressing these issues in the City and State which we are working with awareness and outreach to be passed. But Transportation Alternatives/bike lobby, a corrupt 501c3 nonprofit which buys politicians, blocks safety measures at every turn. It’s quite transparent, traceable and disgusting.

    The enforcement from Park officials needs to be paramount. Licensing and registration to identify rogue behavior is necessary. PARK ENFORCEMENT NEEDS TO GET THE HOVERBOARDS, MOPEDS, UNICYCLES AND ELECTRIC SKATEBOARDS OFF THE PATH.

    HOW MANY PEOPLE NEED TO BE CRITICALLY INJURED OR DIE?

    I’ve been calling and writing and advocatiNg for 4 years about this issue. Nobody cares. Now it’s out of control. The Mayor has also ignored the crisis.

    • Mike Mike July 4, 2024

      I don’t think that even one pedestrian has been killed by a Citi Bike, e or pedal, in the 11-year history of Citi Bike. Am I wrong about that? As a pedestrian, I’m a lot more worried about cars and trucks, which do in fact kill lots of NYC pedestrians every year.

    • Mike Mike July 4, 2024

      As a frequent pedal cyclist on the greenway, I’m going to suggest something that might seem counterintuitive: Get rid of the steel bollards that were installed after the 2017 terrorist incident. They are so close together that trying to ride between them without hitting them pulls the cyclist’s attention off of the usually adjacent crosswalk, traffic light and pedestrians. Because hitting one would be a disaster, they totally absorb the cyclist’s focus. Also, since their installation, the number of children, older riders and casual riders (all slower riders who kind of “clogged” the greenway) using the greenway has gone down, leaving it more open for faster users. I’m a serious but older (mid-60s) cyclist and I noticed the change in the rider makeup and the increased speed as soon as the bollards were installed.

  10. Lynn P. Lynn P. July 3, 2024

    Agree with the above comments, especially Sam!
    Though the delivery riders are frequently targeted, it’s the obnoxious, young (mostly) guys & gals on E-bikes who are dangerous.
    They haven’t a clue re: bike rules and cannot stop quickly.
    Think best is a separate lane for all motorized “wheels” and Enforcement!

  11. David Polakoff David Polakoff July 3, 2024

    There is zero enforcement on the Hudson River Park and Riverside Park greenway of unallowed vehicles (i.e., e-bikes, motorized scooters, mopeds and motorcycles). The most dangerous are the combustion engine-driven vehicles, traveling at high speeds, swerving in/out of the pedestrian and bicycle traffic. It would be nice if just on ONE or TWO days, there was law enforcement against the illegal vehicles on the greenway.

    Part of the problem is the inherent confusion over Hudson River Park’s management (NY State? the HRP Trust? DOT? NYPD?).

  12. Sam Sam July 2, 2024

    Citibike riders are the most egregious, most entitled and nastiest to anyone who objects.

    They are like this everywhere — on greenway and out of greenway.

    Incredible that bicyclists keep behaving badly — and keep getting rewarded with more and bigger bike lanes.

    Folks could walk, take subway and bus,

    • BrooklynSandy BrooklynSandy July 3, 2024

      The unembarrassed abnegation by every last NYC/NYS Agency — to say nothing of the shameless legislators and politicians who are OK with putting pedestrians in harm’s way –demonstrates that NYC is becoming a 3rd world city. NO NYC DOT? NO NYS DOT? NO COMMUNITY BOARD OUTRAGE? NO CITY COUNCIL LEGISLATION? Where is the accountability? Oops…I forgot! The biker bro LOBBYISTS — aka the HECKLERS — have vetoed licensing, registration and insuring these e-micromobility vehicles. They are left to hit pedestrians as if we were bowling pins.
      The mewling of “safety,” as if TransAlt owned that definition — while hypocritically railing against any accountability for pedestrians who are being terrorized on sidewalks, in parks and crossing streets — would be laughable-were it not so dangerous to the many of us hit or disabled or killed by these speeding freaks on two wheels.

      ENOUGH!

      • Ron Wisniski Ron Wisniski July 6, 2024

        BrooklynSandy for Mayor!!

    • S. Rogers S. Rogers July 3, 2024

      Agreed!

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