Last month, when Mayor De Blasio announced a crackdown on e-bikes, his main concern was their danger to pedestrians. Some of his points were valid: e-bikes are fast, they’re silent, and they straddle the line between vehicles and regular bikes.
But do the numbers back him up?
Looking at the NYC DOT’s Bicycle Crash Data, they don’t. Data has been collected in all 5 boroughs since 2011, as mandated by local law. And what it shows doesn’t match up to the Mayor’s statements on the dangers of e-bikes.
Between 2012 and 2016, as e-bikes have become increasingly popular, only 4 pedestrians have been killed by bicyclists of any kind in the five boroughs.
The most publicized of those deaths was that of Jill Tarlov, killed by a bicyclist in Central Park in 2014. by a bicyclist speeding on his racing bike—not an e-bike.
Earlier that same year, Irving Schacter was killed by a bicyclist in Manhattan as well. While the bicycle of his killer was not described in detail, it wasn’t specifically mentioned as an e-bike.
Information on the other two deaths wasn’t readily available, but the point stands: bicyclists hardly ever kill pedestrians, and there’s no ready proof any of those statistically insignificant deaths are caused by e-bikes.
While Mayor de Blasio has stated that a crackdown on e-bikes is part of the Vision Zero Plan for zero traffic fatalities, others disagree with that strategy.
In an October statement, Transportation Alternatives Deputy Director Caroline Samponaro said, “Clearly, this e-bike crackdown is about listening to the loudest complainers, not listening to the data. In the Vision Zero era, there is no place for complaint-driven enforcement.”
Samponaro’s statement goes on to mention that drivers are the biggest danger to pedestrians, and she’s right. According to DOT data, in the span from 2012 to 2016, when bicyclists killed 4 pedestrians, motor vehicles killed 762.
Bicycles accounted for 0.52% of those pedestrian deaths—and we know for a fact some of them weren’t e-bikes.
In his announcement, De Blasio said, “Vision Zero is about making us safer regardless of what the threat it.” Hopefully, that doesn’t mean regardless of what the facts are as well.
Check out our earlier story on the different kinds of e-bikes and who rides them, E-Bikes: The Tale of Two Cities, part of our ongoing coverage of the Mayor’s announced 2018 crackdown.