Internet Explorer 11 is not supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

NYC E-Bikes and E-Scooters Exceed Bicycles in Deaths

Pedaled e-bikes were involved in nine fatal crashes in 2022 and 12 in 2023 as of July 4, compared to 10 deaths in 2022 and six in 2023 from human-powered bikes.

police officers examine a crashed e-bike in the road
The two men were riding north on 86th St. when they crashed near W. 11th St. two doors down from the famed Brooklyn pizzeria L&B Spumoni Gardens in Gravesend about 4:10 a.m.
(Theodore Parisienne/New York Daily News/TNS)
E-bikes, motor scooters, standup scooters and other zippy wheeled gizmos are driving a new type of death and carnage on New York City streets and sidewalks.

“Other motorized” two-wheeled vehicles — including electric scooters without pedals, powered scooters on which riders stand, skateboards, hoverboards, Segways and other new mobility devices — were involved in 21 deaths in 2022 and another six deaths in 2023 as of July 4, Department of Transportation data show.

The city separately tracks deaths on the e-bikes with pedals used by many deliveristas. Pedaled e-bikes were involved in nine deadly crashes in 2022, and 12 deadly crashes in 2023 as of July 4, the data shows.

Deaths on those two categories of micromobility devices now eclipse deaths on traditional human-powered bicycles, the city’s numbers show.

In 2022, 10 people died in crashes involving traditional pedal-powered bikes — just one-third as many deaths as the city counted on micromobility devices. As of July 4, 2023, six people have died on human-powered bikes — also one-third the number of deaths on micromobility devices.

Before the pandemic, the city tracked two kinds of crashes involving non-registered vehicles — human-powered bicycles and e-bikes. Twenty-three people died in human-powered bike crashes in 2019, and another five people died in e-bike crashes.

The city began tracking the “other motorized” category in 2021.

City officials admit they need to find ways to improve the safety of e-bikes and other new mobility devices. They’re also convinced that the new mobility vehicles are here to stay.

“E-bikes are a safe and environmentally friendly form of transportation and that is why we are seeing record growth in e-bike use,” said Nick Benson, a DOT spokesperson.

“As more New Yorkers opt for e-bikes, NYC DOT is launching an education and awareness campaign on how to safely ride e-bikes, is working with community partners to help new riders build cycling skills, and is on pace to install a record number of miles of bike lanes and protected bike lanes this year,” he said.

Transportation Alternatives, the city’s leading pedestrian and cycling lobby group, takes a similar view of the new devices that have become deadlier than the human-powered bikes that years ago were the focus of its advocacy.

“E-micromobility is transforming how New Yorkers get around — and it’s an essential part of meeting our city’s climate goals,” Danny Harris, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, said in a statement.

“But it’s up to our elected leaders to make this transition as safe as possible.”

Mayor Adams’ administration acknowledged “serious safety issues” in a report on the micromobility trend earlier this year.

That report also echoed the central role of the devices in the administration’s climate plan, calling them “an increasingly important component of urban transportation systems, reducing pollution and congestion.”

“E-bikes and e-scooters are an affordable and convenient alternative to car ownership and provide a last-mile option to those who do not live close to transit,” the report said. “They are essential for those who are employed as delivery workers and rely on this mode of transportation for their livelihoods.”

E-bikes and e-scooters were first allowed to ride in bike lanes in November 2020, a move characterized by then-Mayor Bill de Blasio as important for pandemic-era mobility.

Safety concerns predate that rule change. A 2019 study by doctors at NYU Langone Medical Center, based on national data, found that e-bike riders were more likely to be seriously injured in crashes than riders of human powered bicycles.

Harris, the Transportation Alternatives executive director, said the city needs to improve cycling infrastructure in response to the deaths. He also said micromobility would become safer with fewer large vehicles on the road.

“We must make key infrastructure improvements like widening bike lanes and expanding the protected bike lane network,” he said.

Harris added that it’s also important to reduce the number of SUVs, trucks and other big vehicles on city streets.

“We know what’s killing the majority of cyclists on our roads: heavy, oversized vehicles like SUVs and trucks, and we know where they’re dying: roads without protected bike lanes.”

Some 260 people died in vehicle crashes of all kinds in 2022 on New York City streets, city data shows. So far in 2023, crashes have killed 93 people in the city.

Most cyclist deaths — e-bike and traditional — result from collisions with other vehicles. But at least four e-vehicle deaths this year did not involve cars, trucks or any other vehicles, the DOT says.

In one such case in January, Goubin Liu, a 62-year-old Queens resident, died after losing control of his e-bike on College Point Blvd. after dark. Liu struck his head on the pavement, according to police, and died at a nearby hospital two days later.

A month later, 32-year-old delivery rider Jacobo Villano Pardo died after he crashed into a park bench with an e-bike in Manhattan’s Riverside Park.

George Attias, a 91-year-old Brooklyn man, died in March when his e-bike struck a curb on a Belt Parkway off-ramp, ejecting the nonagenarian into an adjacent lane.

A few days later, Ricardo Antonio Sicajau, 51, died when the electric moped he was riding smashed into a parked flatbed trailer on Kent Ave. in Brooklyn.

Police reports indicate Sicajau’s vehicle was an e-bike, but Daily News photos from the scene show he was riding an electric moped without pedals. It was not immediately clear how Sicajau’s fatal crash appears in DOT data.

In another fatal incident — this time involving more than one vehicle — 45-year-old Apolonio Aguirre died from traumatic head injuries six days after he rear-ended an SUV on his e-bike while the larger vehicle was waiting at a red light in Brooklyn.

“E-bikes are fast, so stay in control,” the DOT warned delivery riders in a 2021 safety video.

Most legal e-bikes are limited to a 20 mph top speed. Electric Citi Bikes are slower, topping out at 18 mph. Helmets are not required for these bikes, unless they are being ridden for commercial purposes, like delivery work.

The fastest and most powerful e-bikes, known in the industry as “Class 3″ bikes, are allowed to travel up to 25 mph on New York City’s streets and bike lanes — though many are capable of traveling faster. They are the only e-mobility devices on which all riders must wear helmets.

E-scooters — allowed on city streets and bike lanes — must weigh less than 100 pounds, cannot go faster than 15 mph, and do not require helmets.

The DOT is prioritizing wider bike lanes, in an effort to make it safer for faster vehicles like e-bikes attempting to pass slower traditional bicycles, a department spokesperson said.

Four blocks of bike lanes have recently been widened on Ninth Ave., between W. 17th and W. 21st Sts., , and DOT officials plan to incorporate wider bike lane design into street plans going forward.

The DOT announced in April that it plans an awareness campaign aimed at teaching riders that e-bikes accelerate much faster, maintain higher speeds, and come to a stop less quickly than traditional bicycles. The program is expected to launch this fall, a DOT spokesman said.

©2023 New York Daily News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
TNS delivers daily news service and syndicated premium content to more than 2,000 media and digital information publishers.
Special Projects