NEW YORK – New York Mayor Eric Adams on Monday unveiled his new plan to help counties prevent fires caused by lithium batteries.
The plan, titled “Charge Safe, Ride Safe: New York City’s Electric Micromobility Action Plan,” aims to not only protect New Yorkers from fires caused by lithium-ion batteries, but also to promote the safe use of electric micromobility.
The plan focuses on four key areas: promoting and encouraging the safe use of batteries, increasing education and awareness of electric micromobility users, advocating for additional federal regulation of these devices, and expanding enforcement against situations high risk.
Mayor Adams also signed five bills aimed at further regulating lithium-ion batteries sold in New York and strengthening fire safety related to battery fires.
“Today we are improving safety for all of our e-bike and e-scooter riders,” Mayor Adams said. “These are convenient means of transportation for New Yorkers, but faulty and illegal devices are entering our homes and streets, starting fires and putting lives at risk. By promoting safe devices, expanding education, strengthening law enforcement in high-risk situations, and pursuing additional regulations, I’m proud that New York City is leading this this change. E-bikes and e-scooters are here to stay, and with this plan and these five essential laws that I’m proud to sign into law, we’ll make sure they’re safe for all New Yorkers.
E-bikes and e-scooters are an affordable and convenient alternative to cars and are essential for delivery drivers and other New Yorkers who depend on this mode of transportation for their livelihood. However, these new transportation options also posed serious challenges with respect to fire hazards.
Fires caused by batteries that power e-micromobility devices are a significant problem in New York City, rising from 44 in 2020 to 220 in 2022, according to the mayor’s office. These fires are particularly serious and difficult to extinguish, spread quickly and produce noxious smoke. From 2021 to 2022, these fires caused 10 deaths and 226 injuries.
In the first two months of 2023 alone, they have caused two deaths and 40 injuries, posing a clear danger to New Yorkers when not used properly.
The “Charge Safe, Travel Safe” plan identifies four pillars to achieve the administration’s objectives for safer e-micromobility and a safer city:
Support New Yorkers’ transition to safe and legal use of e-micromobility
Through innovative pilot programs and testing of new lithium-ion battery storage and charging technologies, the City will support New Yorkers’ transition to the safe and legal use of electronic micromobility by:
- Work with New York State to design and implement a program that incentivizes the purchase of safe and legal electric micromobility devices;
- Continue to work in major delivery hubs across the country to provide delivery workers with safe places to rest and charge their devices across the city;
- Pilot secure outdoor micromobility charging and storage solutions at New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) properties in Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, and apply for a federal grant to support this work; And
- Identify, test and evaluate the most promising public-facing battery charging solutions through the 2023 DOT Studio Challenge. This initiative will invite startups specializing in e-micromobility charging technology to deploy their products in locations that support delivery people of food. The City will also test and evaluate fire prevention and safety equipment for residences and commercial establishments.
Increase education and awareness on the safe use of devices
The City will expand its education and awareness efforts around the safe use, storage and charging practices of electronic micromobility by:
- Extend engagement to immigrant and working communities, focusing on communities most affected by these fires;
- Work to provide electronic micromobility and lithium-ion battery safety training through NYCEM (New York City Emergency Management) Ready NY platforms, as well as directly to NYCEM community emergency response teams to achieve the New Yorkers every day, plus certified emergency responders; And
- Launch of a series, in partnership with Los Deliveristas Unidos, to train communities in good fire safety practices regarding lithium-ion batteries and e-micromobility.
Strengthen regulation and enforcement against illegal device use
In addition to the legislation Mayor Adams signed today, the City will continue to advocate for additional regulation for these devices and strengthen enforcement against illegal device use by:
- Create a fire marshal task force focused on identifying fire code violators. The task force will use the data to identify potential violators and high-risk situations or “hot spots” that will be subject to disclosure and inspection to comply with existing fire codes;
- Continue to advocate with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and other federal partners to ensure that devices on New York City shelves, both virtual and physical, meet applicable safety standards; And
- Pursue partnerships with local, state, and federal partners to further study the health impacts of first responders handling lithium-ion batteries, which can be extremely toxic when burned.
Promoting the growth of electric micromobility and safe cycling
New York City is a leader in sustainable transportation, and electric micromobility is a key tool to help New Yorkers get around efficiently, safely, affordably and sustainably. In addition to work to prevent battery fires, the City will also work to facilitate and secure the use of electric micromobility by:
- Launch a pilot program to allow e-bikes and other legal electric micromobility devices in parks and greenways this summer and
- Update and test different street designs to accommodate the growth of electric micromobility devices on the roads. To continue these efforts, DOT recently won a “Safe Streets and Highways for All” grant from the Federal Highway Administration that will be used to develop and test a new generation of street designs and policies.
“We have witnessed the devastation wrought by lithium-ion batteries, and the safety and well-being of residents in our communities is a priority we all share,” said U.S. Representative Adriano Espaillat. “I commend Mayor Adams and city officials for their continued efforts to promote safe and accessible electric micromobility for all New Yorkers.”
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