A Greener, More Efficient Way to Patrol Downtown

Security staffers ready to roll

Public safety officers ready to roll

The Alliance for Downtown New York is going where no Business Improvement District has gone before: We’re rolling out electric bikes.

The Downtown Alliance has introduced the four e-bikes as part of a pilot program to provide a greener, more convenient way for the organization’s public safety officers to patrol the district.

E-bikes are increasingly common among New York City deliverymen, and they’re used internationally by German postal workers, and commuters in Western Europe and Japan. But the Downtown Alliance is the first security force—at least in New York City—to use them.

The Alliance routinely re-evaluates how to provide the best possible public safety coverage throughout the district, so the e-bike idea was hatched when we decided to move more officers to our busiest corridors, like Broadway and Broad Street. To do that, we needed to move some officers away from the outer reaches of the district. The bikes were the perfect solution to providing the same quality of coverage with fewer bodies.

“We applaud the Downtown Alliance for upgrading to a more city-friendly form of getting around,” said Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives. “They’re proving that you can do business and provide essential services in New York City on two wheels.”

The difference between an electric bike and other electric-powered, two-wheeled vehicles is that an e-bike can be pedaled without motor power. Additionally, most e-bikes have a longer wheelbase than standard bicycles and only eight gears, with the motor providing extra assistance. The riders’ shifts are six hours, so regular bikes would have been somewhat tiring and slowed response times.

One Downtown Alliance patrol car will remain on the streets and another will be available for emergencies. Prior to the electric bikes, the Alliance used two cars on the streets and one for emergencies. Two cars will remain on the streets on overnight duty.

The all-weather bikes are made by Kysmo, in Chinatown. Each weighs 56 pounds and provides an electric boost for riders when going uphill. They take between six and eight hours to charge and can run for up to five hours, no matter how far a rider travels. Four of the 57 officers will be authorized to ride the bikes.

The Downtown Alliance’s security staff is recognizable by the distinctive red coats its members wear. On their daily patrols, they check in with neighborhood business people, provide visitors and others with friendly directions and aid and assist the NYPD. Lower Manhattan’s crime rates have dropped sharply since the Downtown Alliance and NYPD began working together in 1995.

Crimes against persons—murder, rape, robbery and felony assault—averaged 0.20 per day in 2009, less than half of the rate in 1999. Property crimes—burglary, grand larceny and grand larceny auto—dropped from 4.49 a day in 1999 to 1.58 in 2009.