Electric bikes a menace to sidewalks, say Sunset Park residents

November 20, 2012 Denise Romano
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Although Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed a bill last month that increases safety for commercial cyclists, Sunset Park residents say that another safety issue needs to be addressed — electric bikes that are terrorizing residents on sidewalks around the neighborhood.

At the November 72nd Precinct Community Council meeting, resident Ed Wade said he and his wife were nearly mowed down by someone riding an electric bike on a Fifth Avenue sidewalk.

“The problem is growing and growing. These vehicles are not licensed and drivers are not licensed,” Wade contended. “They have decided the sidewalk is theirs. In this part of Brooklyn, the issue is immense.”

Wade explained that if someone riding a regular bicycle hits a pedestrian, the cyclist will fall off the bike. In the case of these electric bikes, if the cyclist hits you, “you fall down.

“It’s not only delivery people but private citizens who are buying them to get around and no one can stop you,” Wade said. “I know people who bought these to go out and get around. It’s bad enough they are on the street, but now they are on the sidewalks.”

Maria Roca, founder and president of Friends of Sunset Park, agreed. “Someone is going to kill someone riding those things,” she said, adding that some ride faster than the speed limit of 30 miles per hour. “They go way over 40 miles per hour, on the sidewalk no less.”

Wade said that this problem is similar to the moped issues that were prevalent in the 1980s. “The mopeds were gasoline powered…and the police confiscated hundreds and hundreds of them. When that happened, they stopped selling,” he recalled. “Today, you can buy any one of these [electric bikes] anywhere.”

Police officers from the 72nd Precinct said that in order for them to be able to cope with the issue, residents must call upon elected officials to amend the law to include these types of electric bikes.

Councilmember Sara Gonzalez’s office did not return calls seeking comment.

But Wade insisted that he issue is a “police problem. There are enough laws on the books; they have to enforce the law that exists,” he said.

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