Cites lithium-ion battery fires, traffic violations
By Jessica Meditz
While members of the City Council examine ways to regulate e-vehicles and make their lithium-ion batteries safer for New Yorkers, one councilman in particular looks to ban the notorious vehicles entirely.
Councilman Robert Holden, a Democrat representing Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village, Ridgewood, Woodhaven and Woodside in District 30, introduced legislation that would repeal regulations that allow e-bikes and e-scooters to be driven in New York City.
The bill would also restore the fines for e-bike and e-scooter violations from the current civil penalty of $250 to the original amount of $500.
Holden cites a disregard of traffic laws, excessive fires caused by lithium-ion batteries and a diminished quality of life as reasons for proposing this legislation. The bill is co-sponsored by Queens Councilmembers James Gennaro and Vickie Paladino, as well as Councilwoman Althea Stevens in the Bronx.
“People are getting killed, and these things are causing accidents,” Holden told the Queens Ledger back in June. “It’s becoming like a third world country, because anything goes in the streets of New York.”
“My goal is to get rid of these illegal scooters. The cops have to cooperate and confiscate them,” he added.
In addition to restoring fines for violations, Holden calls on state legislators to pass laws that would require registration, insurance coverage and licensing for e-vehicles to be permitted back on the road.
On Jan. 21, the 104th Precinct within the district took to Twitter to reveal that its officers confiscated several illegal, unregistered e-bikes from the streets, making arrests for reckless driving and other traffic violations.
In addition to traffic safety, the e-bikes pose a threat to public safety in that the lithium-ion batteries that power them have caused serious fires across Queens.
Attempting to save money, people often purchase batteries that are used. However, if their components are not compatible with one another, it could lead to overheating and fires.
Just recently, two lithium-ion battery fires occurred in Queens, one in East Elmhurst on Jan. 20, and another in Kew Gardens Hills on Jan. 25. In the East Elmhurst fire, one person died and 10 were injured, and the Kew Gardens Hills fire impacted an in-home daycare facility where 18 children were left injured.
In 2022, nearly 200 fires were caused by lithium-ion batteries, according to the FDNY.
Among the proposed City Council bills to regulate the sale of these batteries includes one that would prohibit the sale of batteries for mobility devices, unless such batteries have been listed and labeled by a nationally recognized testing laboratory or other approved organization.
One co-sponsor of the bill is Councilwoman Joann Ariola, a Republican representing District 32. While she feels e-bikes negatively impact the quality of life for her constituents, she doesn’t feel that completely banning them is the answer.
“I’m a realist, so I don’t know if banning them is realistic, but I do know that regulating and requiring them to be registered and insured is much more viable,” she said in an interview.
Holden also co-sponsored this bill.
“The scourge of these devices throughout our city has led to people disregarding traffic laws resulting in injuries or death, lithium ion-based fires that killed several people and injured hundreds, and a feeling of disorder on our streets and sidewalks as well as a diminished quality of life,” Holden said in a statement. “We must ensure that these vehicles are operated safely before allowing them back on our streets.”