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Van Bramer slams electric bikes

Photo by Rebecca Henely
By Rebecca Henely

City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) invited fellow Councilman Dan Garodnick (D-Manhattan) to his district last Thursday to promote Garodnick’s bill, which would increase fines for those who violate traffic laws on electric bikes.

“We need to take action now before someone gets seriously injured,” Van Bramer said.

Van Bramer affirmed his support for Garodnick’s recently introduced bill at a news conference held at 46th Street and Queens Boulevard in Sunnyside with Community Board 2 members and other residents. Garodnick’s bill does not refer to scooters but to bicycles with a motor attached, which are illegal to drive within the city.

Despite the restriction, the councilmen said the electric bikes have become a common sight in Sunnyside and throughout the city.

“The need for better enforcement is clear,” Garodnick said.

The Manhattan councilman’s bill, Intro 596, would double the fines for electric bicyclists if they commit traffic violations, some of which are running a red light, riding on the sidewalk or riding against traffic. Garodnick said although riding the electric bikes themselves is illegal, the Council wanted to strengthen the rules and enforcement.

“We are taking the action that is in our jurisdiction,” he said.

Eight Council members have co-sponsored the bill, said Van Bramer spokesman Jason Banrey.

Van Bramer said he commonly sees the electric bicycles on Queens Boulevard, 46th Street and Greenpoint and Skillman avenues, but the numbers are increasing. He said many of the electric cyclists are delivering takeout food for restaurants, although they are not all of the offenders.

“I’ve seen them in virtually every neighborhood I represent, and I’m seeing more of them,” he said.

Van Bramer’s district includes Sunnyside, Long Island City, Woodside and parts of Elmhurst and Astoria.

The councilmen said people can get hurt when regular cyclists break the law, but electric cyclists breaking the law and going at higher speeds can be even more dangerous. Sunnyside resident Leonore Lanzolotti said she had nearly been hit when an electric bike made a lefthand turn down the street even though she had the right-of-way.

“You don’t expect what’s coming and the results can be tragic,” Garodnick said.

Van Bramer said the 108th Precinct — which covers Sunnyside, Long Island City and Woodside — is aware of the problem and is working hard to increase enforcement.

“They are very responsive,” he said. “They work very hard.”

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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