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Stopping e-bikes would be easier if they were legal, Sunset Parkers say

Flouting the law: A delivery man rides his electric bike on the sidewalk on 52nd Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues.
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The only way to curb the scourge of unsanctioned electronic scooters is to legalize them, according to Sunset Parkers.

Police aren’t doing anything to stop so-called “e-bike” riders from wantonly disobeying traffic rules, and the vehicles’ legality is hazy at best, so officials must codify the rides and start slapping bad actors with tickets, one local said.

“The police cannot or will not stop them, so we want to legalize and regulate them,” said Tony Giordano the executive director of the Sunset Park Restoration. “It makes them identifiable, so if they have a license plate on the back then the police have no excuse, they can say, ‘Oh this one doesn’t have a license plate grab him,’ or ‘This one does, check that he has insurance.’ ”

The devices are legal to own, but the state Department of Motor Vehicles will not let users register them — effectively making it illegal to ride them on city streets.

Creating a way to register the e-bikes would make it easier for police to ticket dangerous operators, but it would also protect riders and property owners by limiting who can helm such shooters and compelling drivers to get insurance, according to a rep for a local pol who is working on such legislation.

“It’s a very problematic issue in Sunset Park,” said Jeffrey Wice, special counsel to Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (D–Sunset Park). “We’re approaching this from a safety and responsibility perspective. We want to make sure young people are limited from using these bikes and that adults are registered and insured.”

Pols introduced a bill last year to regulate the battery-powered scooters as bicycles, but it went flat, Ortiz instead hopes to treat them more like cars.

Meantime, e-bikers are scooting all over town with relative impunity, Giordano said.

“These things are silent killers,” he said. “I’ve stepped out of my car at 10 pm and suddenly something just blew past me at 30 miles per hour.”

The 72nd Precinct did not return requests for comment.

Reach reporter Caroline Spivack at cspivack@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2517. Follow her on Twitter @carolinespivack.

Updated 10:56 am, September 16, 2016
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