Opinion: NYC Dirt Bike ban is ridiculous


New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio made off-road motorcycles the number one public enemy for traffic control in 2021, citing road safety, congested sidewalks, unwanted noise and pollution from the air as his main reasoning. He even posted videos where the city destroyed confiscated bikes to celebrate the initiative.

“Anyone who owns an illegal off-road motorcycle – don’t even think about it. Because the NYPD will find it and crush it ”, Mayor de Blasio proclaimed via Twitter earlier this month. “These dirt bikes have no place in New York. It is against the law. Period. Off-road motorcycles are dangerous.

The focus on two-wheeled transport comes after city officials announced that there were an increasing number of shootings and thefts linked to certain types of vehicles in the spring. Local outlets also covered an incident in which a small child was struck by an all-terrain motorcycle and placed in critical condition last July. But the actual qualifications for what NYC considers an “illegal off-road motorcycle” are puzzling. Many waivers are made for electric scooters and about half of the bikes crashed in the mayor’s video are regular motorcycles. It sounds absurd and only gets worse when you start to think about the consequences of banning some of the most affordable modes of transportation available to poor New Yorkers.

Inexpensive bicycles are essential for city delivery services and most restaurants depend on a fleet of electric scooters or small gasoline-powered motorcycles which have only grown in importance as local health restrictions have prohibited lots of eating inside. While some of the lighter vehicles can use the cycle lanes, most operators take the route they think is the fastest. This means you see them rolling on sidewalks and following pedal bikes through red lights with alarming regularity.

They are absolutely a nuisance at times. But they’re also the only way for many people to get around, as owning a car in New York can be prohibitive and time-consuming. Renting a parking spot will definitely cost you several hundred dollars a month and attempting to stop that vehicle anywhere else often requires double parking, which is technically legal but obstructs traffic. Buying a small scooter means you can park it pretty much anywhere and doesn’t require the operator or vehicle to have a license. Below, a herd is parked a few yards from my front door. At the end of the evening, this group will consist of five or six scooters without license plates, often with young men talking to each other on their return from work.

That’s not quite the rampant threat that de Blasio claims to be.

But there are indeed gangs of off-road scooters and motorcycles with modified exhaust systems serving as a low-cost version of the infamous Japanese street culture bōsōzoku. Some have even been linked to shootings and assaults, although the vast majority of runners are ordinary people just trying to get through town as efficiently as possible.

Meanwhile, on-demand rental companies (eg Revel) are littering the five boroughs with their high-concept waste. Allegedly to help reduce traffic jams and costs of ownership, electric scooters can often be found occupying parking spaces that would have been better used by cars and usually driven by inexperienced middle-class people who don’t. understand that they are supposed to be subject to the same laws as other motor vehicles. But they don’t qualify under New York’s off-road motorcycle ban, so officials claim they are golden to continue in business.

Mayor de Blasio said he expects the city to destroy 3,000 off-road motorcycles by the end of 2021. However, the language used by leaders is not always representative of existing laws and is generally confusing. Technically, any vehicle that does not have side mirrors, brake lights or turn signals cannot be registered with the state and can be considered illegal. But small e-bikes are meant to be exempt and there are plenty of other two-wheelers that take up gray space unless you are particularly knowledgeable, not that all of it seems to matter.

In the video where de Blasio informs New Yorkers that their illegal bikes will be crushed, I noticed several curious victims. About a quarter appeared to be sports motorcycles (eg Yamaha R6), sports standards (eg Suzuki Bandit) or mixed sports (eg BMW GS 650) which are completely street legal. The rest was a mix of scooters, dirt bikes, and a few ATVs.

New legislation to increase penalties for those caught riding the problematic bikes was introduced in July. The bill, sponsored by City Councilor Mark Gjonaj, aims to increase fines to $ 750 (up from $ 500) for the first offense and to $ 1,500 (down from $ 1,000) for all additional offenses . Although the main application still comes from the mayor ordering the NYPD to simply confiscate vehicles wherever they are.

“This chaos must end,” Gjonaj said over the summer. “These motorcycles not only endanger pedestrians and other motorists, but create havoc and lawlessness in New York City.”

Because there is nothing illegal about confiscating people’s property because some citizens are crazy about the loud noises hissing from their windows? Frankly, it seems to me that someone who works for the city just wants a scapegoat for the city’s high crime rate and has chosen the easier target.

Most of the fervor for these rules seems reactionary, bossy, and uncomfortably familiar. More than a dozen Chinese cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Xiamen, have banned (or severely restricted) affordable motorcycles and electric bikes since 2006. Authorities have claimed that traffic violations and crime skyrocketed as the poorest citizens flocked to the two-wheelers for their transportation needs. While there is evidence to support claims that unlicensed scooter riders tend to circumvent the rules, accusations have also been made that the Chinese government has sought to keep low-income citizens dependent on public transport.

“It is important to note that the selection bias of the most vocal advocates for banning e-bikes are often middle-class or upper-class residents who drive. [cars], live near a public transit line, or may even have a driver, ”said CC Huang of Energy Innovation, an urban design consultancy. Forbes in 2016.

These types of repression also seem counterintuitive when championed by government leaders like Bill de Blasio, who can’t help but talk about the environment and climate change. One would assume that motorcycles (which on average consume twice the fuel consumption and half the CO2 emissions of passenger vehicles) would be a desirable alternative to people who buy cars. While gasoline-powered bikes tend to emit more oxides of nitrogen and hydrocarbons due to the lack of a catalytic converter, I find it extremely hard to believe that a small vehicle using less than half of the fuel in the vehicle. ‘a standard automobile causes the same amount of damage to the atmosphere. Of course, there are dozens of articles from the past two decades ready to tell you the exact opposite. Here’s one from 2000 that says bikes pollute ten times more than SUVs.

Although I’m not even sure if the pollution factor is relevant. Considering NYC is trying to remove the vehicles primarily responsible for delivering food, something tells me there could soon be a monumental backlash against this. The ban on off-road motorcycles is short-sighted and has already proved difficult to enforce effectively. Its only benefit appears to be increasing fines for people who probably cannot afford to pay them, forcing more people to use the struggling metro system, and giving officials the opportunity to come forward. .

[Image: @NYCMayor/Twitter; Rblfmr/Shutterstock]

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