getting around

‘Just Befriend the Doorman and Don’t Arouse Suspicion’

Photo-Illustration: Curbed; Photos: Facebook, Getty, Reddit

A rise in deadly fires caused by lithium-ion batteries has led to a parallel rise in e-bike bans at buildings and institutions across the city, from Manhattan luxury developments to Columbia dorms and Chinatown walk-ups: “I want to cry,” one person recently wrote on Reddit. “E-bikes banned by the co-op board in my building.” While most of these fires are caused by badly manufactured or refurbished batteries, blanket bans on storing micromobility vehicles often make no exceptions for UL-certified batteries or bikes from reputable manufacturers, so the Riese & Müller Load–riding parents of Park Slope and the VanMoofers of Williamsburg are now left with the question of where to put their newly designated contraband. (This is also why many bike-safety advocates have advised against this approach. “A ban is blunt and an overly broad correction,” Aaron Charlop-Powers, a member of Families for Safe Streets, told Streetsblog last year, cautioning that it may force “unsafe practices further underground.”)

In response to these new rules, a community of renegade e-bikers has started sharing tips on Reddit and Facebook to circumvent watchful building managers and co-op boards. “Figure out who the other micromobility users are in your building — there is power in numbers,” one such post reads, a kind of call to internet arms. Some try to bribe or charm their way out of enforcement. “Just befriend the doorman (chipotle, Gatorade, preroll) and don’t arouse suspicion,” one Reddit user advises. Another suggests giving one’s doorman a “nice tip” on the holidays — a good practice to follow even if you’re not trying to sneak a 50-pound bike past someone on a daily basis.

Others choose deception. The owners of e-scooters seem to make out well here since they can simply smuggle their vehicle in and out using a duffel bag. But e-bike users have to be creative, it seems. One Reddit user notes that their co-op “just taped paper signs everywhere” banning e-bikes with no warning. And while the building has no doorman, there is, apparently, a nosy board member who observes the poster’s wife as she enters and exits the building. The poster is advised to tell their wife to remove the bike battery and pretend to have a nonelectric bike. “If they complain,” one person writes, “ask them to show you the battery on the bike.” (Another observes that such ploys may work given that “a board member who hangs in a public space sounds clueless to me.”) One redditor suggests a simpler approach: “Get a sticker that says ‘cadmium battery’ and put it on your ride.”

There is also the school that advises to ask for forgiveness, not permission. “For now I can only hope they won’t enforce it,” one redditor writes of their decision to keep storing the bike out in the open, as usual. They also, however, counsel UL certification and working with reputable dealers. (One thread piles on a poster who says they’re waiting for a bike off Alibaba.)

And if all else fails? “Find a way to charge it at work,” another writes.

‘Just Befriend the Doorman and Don’t Arouse Suspicion’