New York City saw three e-bike battery fires in the past 24 hours

FDNY now requires all landlords to educate residents on e-bike battery safety

An e-delivery bike in New York
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Lithium-ion battery fires continue to wreak havoc on New York City as three fires spark in the past 24 hours alone, pushing the total of such fires past 200.

All residential and relating to e-mobility devices, the fires sprung up in a basement in the Kensington neighborhood; outside an apartment complex on the Upper East Side and one this morning in the Bronx

For months now, the city has been struggling to keep li-ion battery fires at bay, which have doubled from last year and have already claimed at least six lives and injured 130 people. 

In an effort to curb the rapid rise in fires, the New York Fire Department (FDNY) is now mandating that all property owners educate their tenants on lithium-ion batteries by way of distributing safety guides and hanging bulletins with lifesaving advice.

This action comes just weeks after the New York City Council held a hearing to address the deadly rise in e-bike and e-scooter related fires. At this hearing, the council received a package of bills, sponsored by Councilwoman Gale A. Brewer, which call for a range of reforms including informational campaigns and banning the sale of both second-use and uncertified batteries.

At the hearing, the FDNY spoke in favor of the reforms and while these bills are still under review, the department appears to have started with the dissemination of basic safety information.  

New York City is home to some 65,000 delivery workers and couriers who are the majority users of e-bikes and other micro-mobility devices. The FDNY is tasked with the difficult problem of ensuring the safety of New York residents while also not disrupting the livelihood of those who use e-mobility devices to do their jobs. 

Electric mobility transportation devices such as e-bikes, e-scooters and hoverboards have rapidly grown in popularity for both recreational and professional use, and with it fires caused by faulty lithium-ion batteries and their chargers have become a worrisome problem not just in New York, but in cities the world over

The problem with these large lithium-ion batteries lies in the abundance of cheap, poorly made products from disreputable sources that are sold via the internet, are often untested and do not adhere to any safety standards.

One of the bills currently to be reviewed by the New York City Council would curb this problem by prohibiting the sale of both second-use and uncertified batteries.

"The FDNY requiring landlords to post safety bulletins regarding these dangerous devices is a positive step forward but not nearly enough; it will not do anything to stop the real problem: the unregulated batteries," said Baruch Herzfeld, co-founder of Safer Charging, a group that’s asking the City to adopt a standardized, battery-swapping system and/or building safe outdoor charging stations.

"And in the past 24 hours, there have already been 3 e-bike battery fires, including a serious one in the basement of an apartment building. This horrific trend will continue until the city council passes a real solution: moving charging of bike batteries outside of residential buildings, requiring UL certification of batteries, and helping to create a battery swap network of safer, more sustainable, swappable LFP batteries."

It has not yet been announced when the Council will reconvene to vote on the proposed reforms but we'll continue reporting on the progress. 

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Anne-Marije Rook
North American Editor

Cycling Weekly's North American Editor, Anne-Marije Rook is old school. She holds a degree in journalism and started out as a newspaper reporter — in print! She can even be seen bringing a pen and notepad to the press conference.

Originally from The Netherlands, she grew up a bike commuter and didn't find bike racing until her early twenties when living in Seattle, Washington. Strengthened by the many miles spent darting around Seattle's hilly streets on a steel single speed, Rook's progression in the sport was a quick one. As she competed at the elite level, her journalism career followed, and soon she became a full-time cycling journalist.