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Wake-up call

E-bike and language licenses


Common sense, that endangered property of human intelligence, says that since e-bikes are increasingly crashing into people and inflicting grave injury, and because their batteries are prone to spontaneous combustion, they should be regulated.  

In the political sphere, remedies must not be undertaken or even contemplated until the problem has ripened. Like cataracts. At last, the crisis is mature enough to address.

A bill proposed by Queens City Council Member Bob Holden, and supported by everybody with a multi-celled brain, would require e-bike drivers to be registered with the Department of Transportation (always on-point and ahead of the curve) and be issued Department of Motor Vehicles licenses to be displayed so they are identifiable.  

They should be producible to police on demand.  Right now, nearly all drivers of e-bikes involved in accidents flee the scene and cannot be traced. 

They should be restricted to bike lanes, which are currently for the most part a waste of space. Speed limits should be lowered regardless of whether the vehicle is classified as a moped, scooter or other, and regardless of if it's a "pedal assist" or a "throttle with pedals.” 

The bill would become Priscilla's Law, named for a victim of a killer e-bike, who was on her way to work when she was mowed down in Chinatown a few years ago. It has been introduced in Albany as well, by state Assembly Member Jenifer Rajkumar, State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. and the NYC E-Vehicle Safety Alliance.

To New Yorkers, "Get out of Dodge" does not mean high tail it out of the infamous Wild West town of gunslingers, but rather "dodge" out of the way of e-bikes. Hospital emergency rooms report an exponential spike in crippling injury from these wheeled missiles, and there have been many fatalities from exploding lithium batteries that are manufactured where global norms of truth in advertising and trade are flouted and intellectual property rights and patent laws are ignored with global impunity.

Insurance should be mandatory, and rates determined by driver history and analytics, as they are for cars. There should be rigorous annual inspections with results stored in a database accessible to law enforcement. Failed inspections should subject the e-bike to seizure if operated. The NYPD has been getting serious about this in recent months.

Thirty-one Council members have called for e-bike "accountability.” That word has lost its luster because of overapplication and misuse in common parlance and professional development seminars. It needs to be heeded now. 

An estimated 65,000 e-bike drivers (maybe they should be called pilots) work for app companies like DoorDash, Uber Eats and Grubhub. A CUNY study attributes the 20-percent reported injury rate of these food delivery workers to app algorithms. Their livelihood depends on their being in a rush. Except for trauma teams in war zones, there is no split-second drama scenario as compelling as their pursuit of tips.

Companies should be responsible for costs associated with compliance with regulations. If not, they should offer stipends to gig workers for them to fulfill these obligations. They should also get an allowance for clothing on which the name of their employer would appear. Anonymity discourages obedience.

There is some well-intentioned hesitation to complicate the lives of these e-bike riders, because many of them are immigrants. We want to facilitate, not hinder their progress. But rules of all kinds should be meant for everybody. There must never be special concessions, courtesies, preferences or exemptions based solely on group affiliation.  Neither should ZIP code be relevant for eligibility for government or other benefits.

Rigidity or flexibility in the administration of any program or policy, public or private, should apply to all or none. Double standards fly in the face of democracy. And speaking of flight, American Airlines is taking off into some turbulent litigation. It's grounded in demagoguery.

A class-action lawsuit by participants in the American Airlines 401(k) plan, alleges that its sponsor is violating its fiduciary responsibility by subordinating and surrendering what should be the overriding interests and benefits for investors, to a "leftist political agenda.” They contend it is using "environmental, social, and governance strategies" that "prioritize socially conscious objectives through proxy voting and shareholder activism, revealing potential conflicts of interest,” reports Bloomberg Law News.

The fiduciary standard should be sacrosanct. It must not be dominated or annexed by purveyors of people with certain political or philosophical theories and agendas. Exceptions should be extremely rare and meticulously spelled out. For example investors in IBM made out like bandits from the company's infamous and profitable intimacy with Nazi Germany, but in that case, the fiduciary standard should have been sacrificed, if not volitionally, then by government fiat.

Disinvestment or banned investment, by government or privately held portfolios, should never be an act of submission to political pressure, even though even mob rule can be sublimely principled. This never crossed the mind of Julius Caesar. Some have estimated the Roman emperor had a net worth in the trillions. Adjusted for inflation, of course.

It's a tidy sum. Even more than the windfall from donations that a few community organizations get (according to a possibly hallucinating friend of mine) in exchange for being steered to doctors who will pimp their credentials to grease the skids so the donors can be awarded Social Security disability entitlements.

In commentary, it always comes easier to emphasize the negative, since the supply of material is inexhaustible and infinitely renewable. But there are glimmers of hope, if not of redemption. And here's one case of a surprising source: the Port Authority. They launched "The Office of Second Chance Employment" (OSCE), described as "a job recruitment and referral program to help justice involved individuals … to get a second chance by connecting them with employment opportunities.”

Let's not fail to see the forest for the trees.” It's an excellent idea from many standpoints. But why must they say "justice involved individuals"? That phrase applies literally to victims as well as victimizers. It's right to remove destructive stigmas that thwart opportunity for productivity and healing, but eventually the use of euphemisms, indirect and ambiguous language, always come back to bite both the user and their audience on their asses. There are some exceptions: maybe "repose" is all right for casket models.

It's better to keep the language and change the perception and reaction to its meaning, than to play head games. For instance, the word "queer" used to be used as an insult. The gay community refused to be bullied by it, took invective by the throat and ownership of the word, refreshed it with a revitalized new meaning, and showed they are in charge.

It takes courage not to be fazed by maltreated language. But not as much as it takes to take your life in your hands sharing the street with e-bikes.

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