Bay Ridge board calls on city to address e-bike usage on Shore Road Promenade

Bicyclists on the Shore Road Promenade in 2013.
File photo

City parks officials must address the use of higher-speed vehicles on the Shore Road Promenade, according to members of Bay Ridge’s community board, who claim they pose a safety hazard for pedestrians and cyclists sharing the pathway. 

“When I’ve been down there recently I’ve been shocked to see the number of motorized vehicles that are down there,” said Community Board 10 member Stephen Harrison at the panel’s May 17 general meeting, “and I think it is only a matter of time before somebody dies.”

The board’s district manager said her office has received a flurry of complaints from constituents about the use of electric bikes, scooters and mopeds on the waterfront walkway, and echoed Harrison’s call to action after seeing it for herself. 

“I was out on the promenade this past weekend just to check it out because we had gotten quite a few calls,” Josephine Beckmann told Brooklyn Paper. “And you had cyclists young and old, and you had pedestrians young and old. It seemed that it was a lot more crowded and there were scooters zooming by.” 

New York City authorized the use of electric bikes and scooters within the five boroughs in November 2020, with the speed limit for most bikes being 20 miles per hour and for scooters 15 miles per hour, and both can travel in bike lanes and roads with speed limits no more than 30 miles per hour. Mopeds are mostly restricted to traveling in the right lane or shoulder of a roadway with a speed limit of up to 30 miles per hour, but Class A mopeds can travel up to 40 miles per hour and utilize all three travel lanes, according to city guidelines

One resident said she was so alarmed by the speed of an electric bike that passed her the last time she rode her bike on the Bay Ridge promenade, she hasn’t returned since.

“The last time I rode my bicycle there, which was about maybe two weeks ago, I had my breath taken away because somebody on an electric bike passed me going probably faster than the cars on the highway,” said Alexie Lewis, who said she has bicycled on the promenade for 50 years. “It was such a shocking and dramatic experience that I haven’t ridden my bike out there since.” 

The perceived intrusion of electric bikes and scooters is not isolated to bike lanes, community members told the board, citing a high number of the electric vehicles on the promenade’s walking path, as well as the neighborhood’s sidewalks. 

“The use of these vehicles is not limited to just the bike lane, I have seen them also on the pedestrian walkway,” Lewis said. “So it’s pretty much wild out there.” 

The board’s chair echoed residents’ concerns, claiming she was almost mowed down by a scooter when she was walking out of her house and argues that pedestrians are not prepared for the expectation of motorized vehicles on their sidewalks. 

“I agree that there is a problem with expectations on the road and the sidewalks now,” said Lori Willis. “Drivers, people walking, people on bicycles need to know where to expect, where to look for pedestrians, vehicles, et cetera.” 

To address the more acute issue on the Shore Road Promenade, Beckmann penned a letter to the borough’s Parks Commissioner Marty Maher, requesting his department educate the board and the promenade’s e-bike and e-scooter users about where they are allowed to use their vehicles and how to use them safely. 

“The board did a letter to Marty Maher, the Brooklyn Parks Commissioner,” Beckmann said. “I think we really need to understand what the rules are because we are starting to see more of the motorized…vehicles.” 

The community board is potentially interested in implementing a ban on motorized vehicles including e-bikes and e-scooters on the promenade, Beckmann said, similarly to the Hudson River Greenway on the distant isle of Manhattan. 

But the head of Bike South Brooklyn told Brooklyn Paper he staunchly opposes any expansion of a ban on electric and motorized vehicles from bike paths, arguing the city could better accommodate the new bike path users by updating and constructing bike infrastructure. 

“I actually think that the ban on e-bikes on that greenway are wrongheaded and should be rolled back,” Brian Hedden said. “I would not be in favor of expanding them into other areas of the city.” 

The club’s president recommended widening the promenade’s existing bike path to allow for more passing space, adding that the expansion is long overdue as there is an already-existing conflict between the promenade’s more leisurely bicyclists and those biking to get speed, 

“There’s been a conflict for years really between the people who go on that promenade to bike fast,” Hedden said, “versus the ones who are kind of there to take in the harbor views and the bridge views and the sunsets.” 

More protected bicycle infrastructure would ease the burden on the promenade while also helping to address the board’s concerns of bicyclists using the neighborhood’s sidewalks as more users would feel comfortable utilizing them, as opposed to bike lanes exposed to car traffic.

“Bring [bike lanes] properly into the neighborhood so people who are on their bike primarily to get from one place to another do not have to go down to the promenade to feel safe,” he said,  “or they do not have to ride on the sidewalk to feel safe.”

Neither city Parks Department or Department of Transportation officials returned requests for comment.