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Potential Exploding Batteries At Center Of Port Authority Battle With E-Bike Riders

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- As popularity for electric bikes soars, the Port Authority just pulled the plug on some commuters.

A recent tweet left many e-bike riders scratching their heads after learning they're banned from some popular forms of public transit.

KDKA's Meghan Schiller talked to riders who said they're a little sad and very confused after learning the Port Authority's policy isn't what they thought it was. Now they hope if they complain, the Port Authority will change its mind.

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

"I don't like being discriminated against," said Mike Leone, Lawrenceville resident.

A battle is brewing over batteries, and it all started with a Port Authority tweet early last month.

On July 7, Port Authority Pittsburgh tweeted "effective today" battery-operated bikes are permitted everywhere traditional bikes are allowed.

Then Friday morning, a correction was posted saying the exact opposite, calling e-bikes a potential fire hazard, banning them from the incline and the light rail commonly called the T.

"They were trying to say that it was always a policy that e-bikes weren't allowed and that the tweet that they sent as the Port Authority was incorrect. So they were just merely correcting a tweet," said Scott Bricker, the executive director of BikePGH.

The Port Authority wouldn't make anyone available for an on-camera interview on Friday but said wrong information spread internally, hence the incorrect tweet.

Regardless of whether the policy changed, Bricker calls it short-sighted.

"We would strongly encourage them to reconsider this policy. It doesn't mesh with what other transits agencies across the United States and the world are doing," said Bricker.

With e-bikes not allowed on the T, Connor Mulvaney said South Hills cyclists are stuck.

"For the South Hills, we don't have any protected bicycle infrastructure, and South Hills Safe Streets is really trying to advocate to get more," Mulvaney said.

Cyclists like Mulvaney use the T to avoid busy stretches.

"You're avoiding (Route) 51 and you're probably avoiding a good chunk of Route 19. If you are on an e-bike and you don't have access to that safe passage across those routes, you're putting yourself in a significant amount of danger," said Mulvaney.

The Port Authority points to the e-bikes' lithium-ion batteries as the reasoning behind the ban, saying they could explode and cause fires. The Port Authority did not immediately respond when asked for hard numbers on recent incidents in our area.

"I would imagine if you can have a laptop on an airplane, I don't see why you can't have a bike on a T," said Brittani Hileman, a Lawrenceville resident.

E-bikes are still allowed on the bike racks attached to Port Authority buses.

The Port Authority said, "As with all of our policies, we remain open to a productive discussion so we can continue to support the communities we serve."

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