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Queens seeks solutions to streets crowded with cars, e-bikes, mopeds and scooters

Queens seeking solutions to overcrowded streets
Queens seeking solutions to overcrowded streets 02:52

NEW YORK - William Medina moved to the U.S. from Colombia more than five years ago and found work as a delivery driver. Since then, he's seen every corner of Queens.

"I have to travel 30 or 40 miles a day," he said.

The bicycle he used to ride couldn't keep up.

"The company forces the worker to deliver the food in maybe 20, 25 minutes," he said.

Now, he depends on his moped. But as political reporter Marcia Kramer learned on "The Point", some New Yorkers feel anxious about them in the city.

Right now, the rules stand: bike lanes are for bicycles, e-bikes, and e-scooters. Mopeds must drive on the street in the direction of traffic. They are all not allowed on sidewalks. 

District 30 Council Member Robert Holden wants consequences for drivers on two wheels flouting the law.

"It's a free-for-all," he said.

His proposed bill Intro 758 would require that e-bikes and e-scooters have registration, as is already the case for mopeds.

"We need some accountability. That's all I'm asking for here," he said.

But others argue the root of the problem isn't individual offenders but a failure of city infrastructure.

"When people have the space they need and it's easy to follow the rules, people do the right thing," Queens coordinator for Transportation Alternatives Laura Shepard said.

She says that with so much space allocated to cars in the city, there's little left for modes that could be more efficient, better for the planet, and safer.

"In crashes, cars, trucks, and other vehicles are far more deadly," she said.

But would less space for cars make for a worse traffic headache?

Advocates argue it's time to reimagine how we get around.

Former New York City Traffic Comissioner Sam Schwartz says vehicles should be separated according to speed, for a start. 

"We need to have lanes that are solely for bikes," he said. "And then, we may need a second lane for all these mobility vehicles that can go between 20 and 30 miles an hour."

He also believes a mental shift might be in order.

"On one hand, we can't say, 'I want the food within 30 minutes,' on the other hand, 'Lock up all those deliveristas,'" he said.

Some see a possible solution in open streets like 34th Ave in Jackson Heights, which closes to cars from 7am to 7pm daily.

It's a hub for community outdoor activity including dance classes, gardening workshops, and kids' playtime.

Jim Burke with the 34th Ave Open Streets Coalition says the area, with many schools, was a treacherous place three years ago.

He says there's a new sense of freedom without cars. 

"I see a lot of 9-year-olds bike to school by themselves now," he said.

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