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Strife in the fast lane: Activist to roll out campaign vs. illegal mopeds in bike lanes

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | A pedicab pioneer and longtime bicycle activist, George Bliss has had it with mopeds Bogarting the bike lanes — bike lanes he and other pedal-powered advocates fought long and hard for.

While many New Yorkers are freaked out about the mass of e-bikes that now zip through the bike lanes at high speeds, Bliss’s main beef is with mopeds — both gas- and electric-powered.

In fact, he was the unnamed, masked artist The Village Sun reported on a year ago who planned to stencil no-moped signs — a moped in a red circle with a red slash through it — in bike lanes. He never got around to it — his construction-style canvas overalls outfit he planned to wear was just too hot, he found — but now he’s coming forward publicly for the first time.

The bike activist plans to circle City Hall with his trailer. (Photo by The Village Sun)
The other side of the trailer. (Photo by The Village Sun)

In short, he plans to take his message directly to Mayor Adams — in the form of a bike trailer he’ll circle City Hall Park with, while banging on a drum mounted on his handlebars. He’ll pull the trailer — only 30 inches wide, he proudly noted — with a pedal-assist electric tricycle. A tripod sign on the trike’s back sports the name of his ad hoc group, Campaign Against Lawless Mopeds a.k.a. CALM. One side of the trailer proclaims, “STOP THE MOPED MENACE,” and the other, “A Moped or Scooter With No Pedals or Plate Is Against the Law In New York State Unless Max Speed 15 mph.”

He’ll hand out fliers. On their back will be the Department of Transportation’s chart of what vehicles are legal and what aren’t, which Bliss called “very comprehensive.”

“It says any moped — even if it goes [only] 25 miles per hour — has to have a [license] plate and a V.I.N.,” he noted, referring to a Vehicle Identification Number.

Mopeds must have license plates, unless their top speed is 15 miles per hour, the activist says. (Photo by The Village Sun)
Bliss will hand out fliers containing the D.O.T. chart explaining the regulations for e-bikes, mopeds and more. (Photo by The Village Sun)
Using the butt of a hammer as a pointer, Bliss pointed out the column on the D.O.T. flier for “Not Legal e-mobility devices,” which rarely seem to be enforced. (Photo by The Village Sun)

Earlier on, Bliss mulled also dragging the carcass of a moped on a sled behind the trailer for added emphasis — “I think it’s legal,” he noted at the time — but apparently has since dropped that idea.

In addition to being a pedicab pioneer, Bliss is known for these kind of colorful street protests. Back in the 1980s, to call attention to the city’s looming demolition of Adam Purple’s Garden of Eden, he crafted a contraption with a metal barrel drum and sponges, filled it with purple paint and then rolled it along the sidewalks all over Manhattan — leaving a winding trail of purple footprints leading back to the garden.

Police say it’s dangerous trying to catch speeding mopeds. Bliss says there’s an easy way, though: Just set up dragnets at the ends of the East River bridges. And he said the city should create a program where a person who voluntarily turns in an illegal moped, in exchange, gets an electric bike.

It’s the bridge traffic that most irks Bliss and is what sparked his campaign. He bike-commutes to Brooklyn daily and used to use the Manhattan Bridge. But he’s through with that bridge since, he feels, with its narrow bike lane, tricky “S” curve and volume of moped traffic, it’s no longer safe.

“Why is the mayor not implementing the law?” Bliss asked. “Is he aloof? Does he not care? Is he afraid? He has the tools. Why isn’t he using the tools?”

While his focus is on mopeds in the bike lanes, he’s also not happy about the blazing speed of some e-bikes and other electric micro-mobility vehicles. He said he saw a stand-up electric scooter being sold at The Last Mile store on W. Fourth Street in the West Village, where he lives, that can hit a top speed of 60 miles per hour.

“The technology is just astounding,” he said. “But you can’t allow that in cities. And you can’t allow things that you can’t enforce.”

A year ago, George Bliss — dubbing himself the “Unknown Artist” — planned to bike around and stencil “No Moped” signs in the bike lanes. But his white overalls, which were a key part of his “Safety Department” costume, turned out to be too hot and he never got around to doing it. (The Village Sun file photo)
In article a year ago in The Village Sun, “the masked path protector” hid his identity. (Photo by The Village Sun)

City rules say stand-up scooters cannot go above 15 miles per hour.

Meanwhile, e-bikes are only allowed to go as fast as 28 miles per hour in New York City, but as Bliss noted, “Many exceed that.”

It’s a problem that’s spiraling out control, many New Yorkers cry.

“Start with these that are the biggest and fastest,” Bliss said of his moped campaign.

Surprisingly, the cycling activist had good things to say about cars — at least in relation to micro-mobility vehicles that violate the rules of the road.

“Yes, cars kill more people — but there are so many more cars,” he said. “Well, gee, there are a lot more cars than mopeds — thank God. A car is a very predictable thing; it will stop at the light. They have a culture. There is a discipline there, which allows bikers to ride the way we do.”

Bliss also predicts the East River Bridge bike lanes will be even more hammered by mopeds once congestion pricing kicks in.

“A lot of people will take mopeds over the bridge” due to the tax, he predicted.

So, with his trailer, fliers and drum, he’ll be making a stand — he hopes not his last — to keep the bike lanes for bikes.

“I’ve been here 45 years,” he said. “To give up on a city that holds so much promise for biking — and under Bloomberg it was fulfilled — is really sad.”


  1. John Campo John Campo March 8, 2024

    There is no accountability in city government none what so ever. Police and Fire Dept are told not to report violators and the Parks Dept puts up signs without accountability. Count the number of signs they allow the community boards to put up that are useless; No Honking, No idling, Don’t block the box, 25 MPH, No riding on the sidewalk, etc. If you ask a traffic agent to give a ticket to a bike on the sidewalk, he laughs at you and then disappears when rush hour starts on Bowery and Delancey, the worst intersection in the city and most congested. The fix is in for e-vehicles — there is moneymaking involved here under the smoke and mirrors that this is good for the environment. And the dead keep piling up, folks. It has only been a real issue in the last year, while I’ve been vilified for saying this was coming ten years ago. No one is listening…

  2. steve stollman steve stollman October 3, 2023

    Sorry, Peter Townsend, but I don’t want your MTV (Multi_Ton_Vehicles). We need to make room for the smallest and lightest, sneakers and bikes and also for any that can replace giant ones with human-scale ones. Still, a 250-pound moped/motorcycle is not the same as a 25-pound bike and cannot be given the same regard. And what do you do about a 1,000-pound commercial bike that is replacing a huge truck but itself has enough bulk and weight to be a hazard to a mere person?

    Difficult questions, but it is important not to throw out the ebike baby with the street chaos bathwater. 60-pound ebikes are another issue. If you register them, they will need insurance soon and the momentum that they have created in the adoption of this important new, minimal modality will be lost. If police and traffic agents could be deployed strategically, the situation would improve greatly and quickly. Unfortunately, cities are consumed with attempting to regulate traffic flows in order to speed them up, and addicted to the revenues that the proliferation of dangerous, expensive, oversized vehicles confer, care little about shifting to sustainable-level, human-scale transport.

    Citizen activism is admirable but you must be careful not to become the agent of forces that are inimical to your ultimate goals. If you want safer streets, do not form an alliance with those who would seek to maintain the monopoly that industrial-scale vehicles have asserted over public spaces for the last century, creating an environment that was so threatening to human-scale vehicles that they virtually disappeared from our streets. All of those who want to reclaim the streets from the mega-machines that have long dominated them, must learn to appreciate one another in order to have a meaningful effect on the situation.

  3. Regina Cherry Regina Cherry October 2, 2023

    Thank you Mr. Bliss! It is a situation of lawlessness and chaotic menace, no traffic rules obeyed, running through red lights, endangering pedestrians, seniors in particular! When you ask them to get off the sidewalk, they get nasty. Nearby police officers do nothing.

    R. Cherry
    senior resident

    • Pam Greitzer- Manasse Pam Greitzer- Manasse October 3, 2023

      Thank you Mr. Bliss,
      We at EVSA (E-vehicle Safety Alliance) agree and also have been fighting for the Mayor to take action and control illegal moped and  e-vehicle riding. I was hit and suffered a serious brain trauma leaving me semi-paralyzed on my right side.
      Thank you for your work to get the Mayor’s attention!

  4. CooperUnion Mom CooperUnion Mom October 2, 2023

    I support Mr. Bliss. Mopeds must be licensed.

  5. john Rice john Rice October 2, 2023

    Our Mayor doesn’t care about us. He partied the night before the storm on
    Friday and slept that morning — literally or figuratively– and had no plan to alert NYC residents. Many lives could have been saved and not taken away by the anarchy that now fills our lives and streets because no one is in charge at City Hall. This guy has gotta go!

  6. Alt Alt October 1, 2023

    There needs to be attention to increasing number of teenagers — including under 16 — using eCitibike

    They disregard traffic rules, they don’t pay attention, and they don’t wear helmets.

  7. WG WG October 1, 2023

    Thank you very much, Mr. Bliss!

  8. sars sars October 1, 2023

    Regular bicyclists – Citibike and spandex – endanger pedestrians too.
    They need to follow traffic rules.

    • Paul Rinehart Paul Rinehart October 3, 2023

      The difference is a regular bicyclist is going a lot slower and has a lot less mass. So if there’s an incident, it’s significantly less dangerous.

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