When will New York City do something about the “staggering” number of deaths from e-bike fires?

Eric Adams ran for office on a public safety platform two years ago.

His criminal record is mixed, but public safety isn’t just about crime: Deaths from electric bike and electric scooter battery fires are reaching “staggering” levels, says his fire commissioner.

So it’s not a good thing that unrelated corruption suspicions revolving around the mayor involve . . . pressuring the FDNY to ignore safety rules, rules that made donors and their friends uncomfortable.

The well-known story unfolded again last week: A powerful fire destroyed a Brooklyn brownstone.

Three people from three generations of the West family, ages 33 to 81, died.

As has become common for three years, the cause was a battery charging an electric scooter and blocking the exits.

So far, 17 of the 93 fire deaths this year are due to these types of batteries.

Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh calls it “devastating.”

Twenty-seven New Yorkers have died in these fires since 2021, a year after the city legalized electric bikes and similar devices. (No one had ever died in a fire like this before.)

We have quickly reversed decades of progress. Between 2014 and 2020, the average number of annual civilian deaths from fires was 66, including a low of 43 in 2017, the smallest number in a century.

However, last year, fire deaths, at 102, surpassed 100 for the first time in 19 years, and we will likely surpass 100 deaths this year as well.

This represents an increase of 51%, relative to the average before e-bikes became ubiquitous.

As the FDNY notes, deaths from electrical battery fires exceed deaths from electrical fires.

So what is the city doing?

Nothing that has given practical results.

The City Council banned the sale of electric batteries that don’t meet Underwriters Lab-type safety standards, a law it has no way to enforce (council members don’t want police confiscating illegal batteries from cyclists).

The council also ordered the FDNY and the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection to launch an educational campaign.

And he directed the mayor to establish an exchange program, whereby e-battery owners can replace uncertified batteries with certified batteries, at the city’s expense, but Adams has not established it.

The only way to prevent more deaths is for the FDNY to call for a ban on residential storage and charging of electronic batteries, just as it bans home storage of gasoline and other flammable or hazardous materials.

The current law, enacted in the final weeks of the de Blasio administration, deliberately exempt the storage and charging of “no more than five” such devices in a home.

And it’s time for the FDNY to push for enforcement of several fire code laws that already Prohibit dangerous commercial-industrial activities in homes.

Most city bikes and electric scooters are used to deliver food, and delivery apps like Uber Eats, Grubhub, and DoorDash should be responsible for storing, maintaining, and charging their workers’ equipment at commercial-industrial sites. .

Only after a ban is it time to think about possible exemptions: for example, the storage of one UL certified battery for a personal bicycle, registered with the local FDNY fire station and, if applicable, with the owner’s owner.

But Adams remains passive in the face of the infernal crisis of electric bicycles.

Its fire commissioner, Kavanagh, blames unregulated food delivery apps and battery sellers, saying they have “blood on their hands,” even though the city is in a position to better regulate these industries by shutting down their businesses. markets.

Do you think they are going to regulate themselves?

And, surprise, surprise, Grubhub executives have given Adams $13,675 for his 2021 and 2025 mayoral campaigns (as reported the Daily News).

This could be a coincidence.

Except Adams is already was embroiled in a scandal for pressuring the FDNY to ignore critical safety rules in fast-track occupancy permits for a new building for the Turkish consulate when he was district president and future mayor in 2021.

This pressure turned out to help Adams’ financial supporters connected to Turkey.

In his first year as mayor, Adams also wanted the Department of Buildings (historically perceived, not incorrectly, by developers as more pliable to pressure than the FDNY) to take over fire inspection duties.

So Adams is already embroiled in a scandal over suspicion of sacrificing public safety for donor convenience, when a different donor has an interest in maintaining new business as usual in e-bike deliveries, the biggest safety crisis. non-criminal public of the city.

Well, maybe a different type of crime.

No wonder the city continues to burn.

Nicole Gelinas is a contributing editor to the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal.

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