New York City saw an increase last year in injuries and deaths related to defective batteries sparking fires in electric bikes and scooters.
Lithium-ion batteries were responsible for 267 fires in the city last year, about a 20% increase from 2022, according to New York City Fire Department data reviewed by Gothamist. E-bike injuries grew to 150, and the battery fires caused 18 deaths, up from six the previous year, the FDNY confirmed to the Washington Examiner.
The FDNY has warned against using refurbished batteries and urged riders to check for fake Underwriters Laboratories (a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory) stickers on e-bike batteries and chargers. In response to the FDNY concerns and dozens of battery fires in recent years, the city council passed a package aimed at addressing safety concerns. The bills barred the sale of used or refurbished e-bike batteries and required the FDNY to submit yearly tracking reports of fire risks from e-bikes.
NYC’s delivery drivers depend on e-bikes as an inexpensive and carbon emission-reducing alternative to cars. According to Forbes Advisor, New York has one of the lowest motor vehicle registrations in the nation, as NYC is consumed by heavy traffic and limited parking.
Mayor Eric Adams acknowledged city residents rely on food delivery workers when he introduced a lithium-ion battery-charging pilot program expected to launch this year. The initiative is part of the administration’s “Charge Safe, Ride Safe” program, working to expand and regulate fast and safe charging services for e-bikes in public areas of the city.
“New Yorkers rely on delivery workers for so much, and this innovative pilot program will test different technologies to make this technology safer as we continue to do all we can to help protect workers from the dangers that lithium-ion batteries can pose,” Adams said in an announcement on Dec. 5.
“By investing in battery-swapping networks and fast-charging e-bike docks, we’re building e-bike-friendly infrastructure and preparing our city’s streets for a new generation of users,” the Democratic mayor added.
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New York City has expanded its cycling network to 1,525 lane miles as of 2022, increasing in the past two decades by around 200%, according to the city’s Department of Transportation.
But residents still grapple with the lack of biking infrastructure and protected lanes, contributing to a record number of bike riders killed in accidents last year. A report released in October from Transportation Alternatives stated, “A staggering 94% of bike riders killed in traffic incidents lost their lives on streets lacking protected bike lanes.”
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