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E-bikes are popular but some who share the road with them aren’t happy

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NEW YORK — In all her 36 years of living in Brooklyn’s historic neighborhood of Fort Greene, Maria Ferrari has encountered few things this unsettling.

Ferrari, 69, raised a family here; before she “semiretired” in 2020, she breathed a sigh of relief coming home to peaceful Fort Greene after grinding, grueling days in the soap-opera industry. “I think of Fort Greene as a village,” she says of her tree-lined, brownstone-dense haven. “We have everything we need, right here.” But twice now, she says, she’s narrowly avoided being struck down by cyclists ripping through on electric bikes.

The first time, the e-bike rider was going the wrong way on a one-way street, Ferrari says on a bench in the sprawling Fort Greene Park, with the sound of tennis balls whacking back and forth in the background. The second time, “I swear to God, he was in my face as he passed,” Ferrari adds, her hand six inches from her face. “And he went, ‘Sorry!’ as he zipped by. It’s like” — Ferrari scoffs — “ ‘You’re lucky I wasn’t even faster stepping into the street!’ ”

In the grander catalogue of neighborhood dangers, getting hit by an e-bike is far from the deadliest. Nor is the threat presented by e-bikes anywhere near the gravest one facing Americans when inflation is costing people their homes, children are in peril at school and — oh, right — the planet is also melting. Still, there are concerned Maria Ferraris in every Fort Greene in North America.

In Madison, Wis., elected officials enacted new regulations that arguably encouraged the use of electric bikes in 2019 — but noted that they’d heard grumbling from constituents about the juiced-up bikes barreling by them on trails. In Kent, Ohio, one resident wrote a letter to the editor of the news site the Portager in April to complain about e-bikes: “The idea of normalizing any vehicle zipping along any and all sidewalks, the Esplanade notwithstanding, on the…