Plans to bring 500-pound, 20 mph, e-bikes to New York City’s streets are under fire from cyclists — who warn they are so big they will kill other riders.
The cargo quadcycles are being planned by the city’s Department of Transportation in a radical shake-up, which will supersize the dimensions allowed for delivery e-bikes on the city’s 1,525 miles of bike lanes, in a bid to cut carbon emissions.
The DOT is planning to allow commercial e-bikes to be 48 inches wide – compared to the current cap of 36 inches – and have a maximum speed of 20 mph.
Mayor Eric Adams said earlier this year that the bigger bikes “will help New Yorkers get the items they need while reducing carbon emissions and traffic congestion — and getting dangerous trucks off our streets.”
But officials were warned this week that bigger and faster machines than models currently being trialed by UPS on city streets put cyclists’ life at risk — and will take over bike lanes.
At a virtual public hearing on the proposal Wednesday, Joel Gelb told officials: “It’s the end of bike lanes. We can’t call them bike lanes anymore if it’s open to four-wheel trucks that are electric-powered and 500 pounds.
“If this proposal passes, there is no doubt this will end in dead cyclists.” His warning was first reported by W42ST.
Maureen Fitzgerald told DOT officials she thought it was “absolutely crazy” to allow wider cargo bikes into city lanes, saying she had been struck by an e-bike last year.
“The driver was so young,” Fitzgerald said. “She left me lying in the road and took off. They’re not bicycles, just because they have pedals.
“This is a situation comparable to when the city opened the floodgates to Uber, to Lyft and basically obliterated our yellow taxis.”
The new e-bikes would be as wide as many of the city’s bike lanes, which can measure as little as 4 feet across — meaning they would effectively block them.
Christine Berthet, cofounder of Clinton Hell’s Kitchen Chelsea Coalition for Pedestrian Safety, said the supersized bikes would “definitely” wreak havoc in — and out — of designated lanes citywide.
“It doesn’t seem very reasonable to allocate sidewalks and bike lanes – which are there to protect vulnerable users – to such large vehicles,” Berthet told The Post. “I hope that the DOT is going to listen and take it back and really review what to do.”
She also warned that pedestrians in the city would inevitably see the cargo bikes ridden on sidewalks.
“That seems ludicrous on a sidewalk,” Berthet said Thursday. “It’s the equivalent, you know, of putting a car on the sidewalk.
“Everyone is already very, very upset because there’s too many cyclists, electric bikes, mopeds – everything – on the sidewalk, which are scaring pedestrians. How is that going to help?”
Even backers of the plan for more e-bikes acknowledged their 20 mph top speed — which they could exceed downhill — was a concern. The citywide limit for motor traffic is 25 mph.
New York Cycle Club spokesman Neile Weissman said commercial pedal-assist cargo bikes should be capped by the city at 12 mph.
“Cyclists are very concerned about safety and use of bike paths that we’ve fought so long for,” Weissman said. “However, on a broader scale, trucks do kill cyclists, so if you can reduce truck traffic, that’s a good thing.”
If paired with infrastructure improvements like wider bike lanes and strict speed limits, Weissman said the proposed cargo bike influx could make streets safer for cyclists.
“But it’s a very qualified yes,” he said.
Backers of the plan for larger cargo bikes say they would cut the number of trucks on city streets, reducing carbon and other emissions in line with Adams’ environmental goals, and reducing congestion.
Some 27% of cycling fatalities citywide have involved a truck this year, while no cyclists have died in crashes involving cargo bicycles, DOT officials said.
Daniel Flanzig of the New York Bicycling Coalition also praised the DOT’s plan, insisting that cutting carbon emissions by replacing high-polluting trucks with cargo bikes makes the city more sustainable.
“First, you’re getting people out of cars and back onto bikes,” he said. “Obviously we’re all vying for a limited amount of space in New York City and by getting a 50-foot truck off the road making a delivery, you can add back on 10 cargo bikes.”
And Weissman “Trucks figure disproportionately in killing cyclists on the road, so anything that reduces truck traffic will save cyclists lives,” Weissman told The Post. “And it’s going to make the city more livable.”
Ironically, the proposal for a 10-foot maximum size for cargo bikes would force Amazon to take its fleet of bike trailers used extensively in Manhattan and Brooklyn off the roads because they are too long.
No timeline has been set for DOT officials to approve or alter the proposal, which included a 30-day public comment period starting on Aug. 14.
“Please note the intention here is to make our streets safer and more sustainable, when the alternative is not offering alternatives to emission releasing, multi-ton/large trucks,” DOT said in a statement.