Sunset Park residents concerned over e-bike usage

Coming to a screeching halt?

For years, Sunset Park residents have complained about use of electric bikes in the neighborhood, although the 72nd Precinct has assured concerned residents that it’s doing the best it can to prevent these illegal bikes both from being sold and ridden in the streets.

“It’s out of control. It’s like the Wild Wild West,” said Sunset resident Donald L., who attended the 72nd Precinct’s community council meeting on Tuesday, September 13. “People are still riding these bikes up and down the block without safety helmets, and up and down the sidewalk. If they get stuck in traffic, they swerve onto the sidewalk to pass the traffic. They get to the corner, the light is red and they just scoot on by. “

According to the resident, there’s been an escalation in the usage of the bikes in the past year. “Some of them are delivering food,” he added. “Anything goes. It seems like there’s no control. “

Tony Giordano of Sunset Parker also expressed his displeasure with the rising use of e-bikes. “The bikes are illegal to sell or even possess in New York City,” he said. “Yet several stores sell them openly in Sunset Park. They have no insurance and there is no one to check if the rider has a driver’s license.  They cannot be registered at the DMV because they are illegal.”

In addition, said Giordano, “Part of the community’s concern is that the illegal use of e-bikes on sidewalks has led to motorcycles with plates breaking the law, too,” and, “These bikes are putting manual bike riders in jeopardy because they sometimes use bike lanes which are not meant for motorized vehicles.”

Two years ago, the 72nd Precinct Community Council declared that the problem would be eliminated. “Sunset Park and Windsor Terrace, we have kept our promise. This is the first E-Bike seizure and we are letting everyone know that the seizures officially start today,” the official community council Facebook post read at the time. Yet, residents say, they have continued to menace the neighborhood.

Captain Emmanuel Gonzalez, the precinct’s commanding officer, agrees that the bikes are dangerous and have been a problem. “Electric bikes are totally illegal,” he said at the meeting.  “I have seen video in regards to the problem. Like you said, they go up and down the wrong way on the street. [If you’re] looking for a car  coming one way, yet here comes the electric bike, coming the other way.”

The captain assured attendees that the cops are doing their best to eliminate the problem. “Right now, the 72nd Precinct has confiscated so many bikes that the roof to our precinct is full of them,” he said.

Members of the Sunset Parker Facebook page have asked their  state representatives to pursue a legislative change in Albany to make e-bikes legal. That could begin as early as January, 2017, led by Assemblymember Felix Ortiz, who, Giordano said, “has agreed to pursue this legislation when the new session begins in Albany.” In addition, Giordano said, Sunset Parker has reached out to State Senator Jesse Hamilton, who also represents the neighborhood, to carry the legislation.

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