Scooters, e-bikes cause furor at traffic safety town hall

June 8, 2022 Helen Klein, Special to the Brooklyn Eagle
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“We don’t want to get killed.”

“Every single day, I’m out there with my kids, and I’m worried. All I want is to be able to walk across the street with my daughter and not worry.”

Those were some of the messages, repeated multiple times, during a contentious town hall meeting on pedestrian, cyclist and street safety in southwest Brooklyn hosted by State Senator Andrew Gounardes at McKinley Intermediate School.

While other issues came up — illegal truck parking in the vicinity of Dyker Beach Park; hot-rodders gunning their vehicles down Shore Road and other local streets, loudly and at high speeds; the misuse of parking placards — it was the e-bikes and scooters, notorious for speeding down crowded sidewalks while making deliveries, that members of the crowd were most angry about.

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Drivers are careless, they said, and some of them actually try to terrorize pedestrians, a couple of women contended. “They’re playing chicken,” one audience member said.

And, numerous attendees asserted, cops don’t do enough to stop them.

Bikes locked up. Photo by Will Hasty

“I call 911 repeatedly,” one woman told the panel, which included Gounardes, Councilmember Justin Brannan, members of the NYPD and representatives of the city’s Department of Transportation, “and nothing is getting done.”

“I see the police drive by them,” another woman shouted, “and they do nothing.”

“There’s no enforcement in the neighborhood,” a third woman pronounced.

“That’s not true,” responded Captain Andrew Tolson, commanding officer of the 68th Precinct, who said that the precinct had seen a “big increase in scooters,” and had mobilized to address the issue, confiscating about 100 during an operation last summer.

Officers are able to take away the scooters from their operators, he explained, if they are able to identify infractions such as the drivers not wearing helmets or speeding on the sidewalk, or if the scooters are unregistered and uninsured. This applies only to the gas-powered scooters, said Tolson, and not e-bikes, because of the way the law is written.

A moped. Photo by Will Hasty

With reference to the e-bikes, he said, “I understand they go 30 mph, but they are legal,” as long as they are in the roadway, as opposed to on the sidewalk. A total of 75 summonses had been issued to e-bike operators over the last month, he said in answer to a question from the crowd.

But, Tolson stressed, if a cop attempts to pull over a scooter, and the driver takes off, “We’re not going to chase them and put lives in danger to get a summons from them.”

Both Gounardes and Brannan urged their listeners to call 311, get a case number, then call their offices and ask for follow-up. While many in the group seemed to feel that calling 311 was a waste of time, the two elected officials stressed that without a registered complaint, “There’s no way for us to do follow-up,” as Gounardes put it.

But, one woman rejoined, “We should not just have to go to your office to get some response.”

A motorcycle. Photo by Will Hasty

Gounardes noted that officials have been working with the groups representing the drivers in an effort to find a solution. “We have been talking about education; we have been working on trying to figure out a solution about sharing the roadway safely,” he told the group, noting that the danger is to the delivery workers as well, nine of whom lost their lives in 2021, he said. 

The key, Brannan asserted, is mutual respect among the various people sharing the city’s streets. “We want them to be safe,” he told the crowd. “We want everyone to be safe. We want our kids and families to be safe. The scooters should not be driving on the sidewalk, but let’s remember, these scooters are delivering food and goods to our community. It’s about enforcing the law, but it’s about respect. Ultimately, the streets have to be protected for the most vulnerable, children, families and seniors. We are trying to find that balance where everyone is safe.”

McKinley Intermediate School is located at 7305 Fort Hamilton Parkway.

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