Planning the Next Assault on New York State’s E-Bike Inanity

Planning the Next Assault on New York State’s E-Bike Inanity

Jul 22, 2013. Article Viewed 6541 Times

Now that the NYS legislature has ratified its identity as the lamest State Legislature in the country by once again failing to pass a bill legalizing electric-assist bikes, the campaign to reverse this mindless course is already beginning. Since this part-time governing body suspends all activity during a Summer recess that does not end until the New Year, there is plenty of time to strategize and plan for the next Sisyphean assault on Albany Mountain.

Unfortunately, there are two distinct approaches being taken by the two bodies and that must also be resolved. Ass. Gantt is convinced that adults must be forced to wear helmets on these machines, in spite of the urging of NYC’s, NYS’s, and all the National bike groups’ insistence that, as with ordinary bicycles, this decision needs to be left up to each adult person to make for themselves. That is in addition to the numerous scientific studies from both here and abroad that prove that requiring helmets is, on balance, a very, very bad idea. One important factor is that it reduces the number of riders so substantially that it makes it much more dangerous for everybody else. Counter-intuitive but true. Also irrelevant to your own personal decision whether you want to use one or not, but this is a perfect case of “Don’t confuse me with the facts, I’ve already made up my mind”. He also insists that nobody under 16 years of age be able to ride as a passenger. This inexplicable limitation means that an electric-assisted bike can never function as a family vehicle, one of its greatest potential uses. In contrast, the Senate bill simply reflects the Federal requirements, one horsepower, 20 MPH, etc. Reconciling these two bills will require prodigious effort, made more difficult since we are still saddled with a Medieval, top-down political system, with leaders as Barons and Committee Chairs as Dukes. Maybe an e-bike jousting tournament would catch their attention.

Speaking of Royalty, it appears that the exiting Mayor of NYC, Mike Bloomberg, was the person who applied the coup de grace to this year’s attempt to bring mobility sanity to the Empire State. It seems that the bike-share program in NYC, one of the Mayor’s pet projects, is achieving major success. A million rides and no serious accidents later, the nay-sayers are holding their tongues for the moment. While over-large docking stations and pervasive outdoor ads are aggravating some citizens, even reporters are being charmed by the ubiquity and utility of these lumbering devices. Unfortunately, Mr. Bloomberg, before the popularity of the bike share system had been established, decided to shield himself from some of the nasty tabloid editorials equating electric bikes with the riding habits of the energetic immigrants hauling hot food around the town to their hungry and anxious customers. To keep from being labeled rabidly pro-bike, while these same car-ad filled excuses for journalism lambasted him for bike lanes, bike share, e-bike deliverers, etc. etc. he decided to defend his reputation by trashing e-bikes.

Strategic? Certainly. Hypocritical? At least grossly inconsistent. Reversible? He won’t be in office next year. It is really a shame that another year must be wasted. Both branches of the legislature, this year, wrote bills which were then taken to their “third reading”, which meant that they were ready to be voted on. Then, from what is being said, the Mayor used some of the brownie points he had accumulated when he decided to personally donate considerable sums of money to a variety of Republican State politicians. The leverage that this provided him was enough to put an umbrella in the spokes of this pro-bicycle legislation, a strange action by the most pro-bike elected official ever in this part of the world. It might have made more sense for him to lean on his Police Commissioner to enforce traffic laws and lessen the bad behavior of some hard-driven piecework laborers, rather than penalizing a host of older cyclists who would like to extend their enjoyment of this healthful activity by getting a little help from a tiny electric motor.

While in France and Germany there are already large experiments with electric-assist bike-sharing, here in the U.S. such programs are all tiny experiments engineered by some smart college students. What better way is there to demonstrate the new pleasures that environmental responsibility will afford us than bringing on the rides, everybody’s favorite part of a carnival or fair? Those looking to raise both awareness and levels of activity around a host of important matters, like extreme climate change, can not find a more accessible subject around which to generate participation, maybe even have some fun. The fact that the alternative to sane transport is oil wars and repo men only enhances the relevance in engaging what was once considered wimpy and marginal. Cycling in its many guises, including the commercial varieties that cargo cycles and pedicabs can bring, points up the absurdity of banning human-scale electric vehicles in a place like New York City, that is over-run with badly maintained, ridiculously over-sized trucks, hazardous to all human life, even when they are not moving.

Who does not want to replace as many of these monsters as possible? How can it be done without some motor power, to supplement human power, which is, however, often, all that is really needed? It is our mind power which is lacking, because we simply can not imagine another world in which sanity has been restored to this element of our lives. When this revolution comes however, don’t expect to hear about it on car and oil ad-supported television or in automobile ad dominated tabloids like the New York Post. And beware of politicians who are cowed by their smarmy misleading editorials, which do nothing but broadcast undeserved contempt for hard-working “others” on their “other” vehicles and their extreme undeserved love of themselves and the status quo, no matter how destructive, irrational or unsupportable, it is.

Commentary Viewed 6541 Times

23 Jul 2013