I could’ve been Lisa Banes.
Like the “Gone Girl” actress, who died this week from traumatic brain injuries sustained in a June 4 hit-and-run scooter accident, I was mowed down in Manhattan by an e-bike that came — silently — out of nowhere and left me for dead.
Hearing about Banes’ tragic, unfair passing brought it all back for me. And now I want to know: How many more senseless accidents, injuries and deaths have to occur before we finally get these menaces off our streets?
It’s been nearly two years since my hit-and-run. I was crossing Sixth Avenue and 37th street on a gleaming Sunday in July when a Postmates delivery driver came roaring in the wrong direction down the one-way street, on the opposite side from the bike lane, and crashed into me.
It happened so fast, I wasn’t sure if I was alive or dead. He immediately sped off, dropping the bubble tea order from Gong Cha.
He must have been flying. The impact was catastrophic, and he only started out less than a block away.
Covered in blood, I crawled around the street, trying in vain to gather my knocked-out teeth. A tourist from North Carolina would later post on Facebook about his trip to New York, and how he saw a bike hit a woman who afterwards looked like a “hockey player after taking a puck to the mouth.”
The accident cost me six top teeth and damaged 11 others. It decimated my jaw and left me with an extensive nose fracture and permanent bone loss. I’ve had five surgeries. I had a horrible reaction to antibiotics after my first surgery, breaking out in hives over every inch of my body, so that even the breeze from a fan made me cry. For months, it was difficult to speak and the radiating pain was so intense that any modest movement — from laughing to getting dressed to turning on the shower — was wrenching.
Doctors have told me that I’ll never fully recover from some of my injuries.
Despite having medical insurance, most of the costs have been out of pocket for a parade of specialists — so much money that I could’ve bought a house upstate. But anything is better than funeral costs.
Right now, anyone 16 and older can drive e-bikes in the city, using them in bike lanes and on streets with speed limits no greater than 30 mph. You don’t need a license or registration — and that must change.
Greater accountability is also vital. Bikes for commercial purposes, essentially those used for food delivery, seldom follow the NYC administrative code, which requires that a business be identified on the bike by name and identification number; that the operator wear upper body apparel with the business’ name and operator’s identification number on the back; and that the business provide or ensure that each bicycle is equipped with a bell or device capable of giving a signal from a distance of at least 100 feet. These rules must be enforced.
It’s also critical that delivery companies be mandated to provide insurance for their couriers, many of whom are barely making minimum wage.
If our leaders do nothing, even more tragedy is around the corner.
Just two months before Banes’ accident, a 71-year-old man, Hing Chung, died after being struck by an e-bike on the Upper West Side. A day before that, a New York City photographer was hit by a speeding e-biker — a delivery driver, she believes — in Midtown. “The person didn’t stop. He just kept going. He knocked me down, I fell so fast it was unbelievable,” she told The Post.
I’m not the only Postmates victim. In 2019, a man who was on a delivery run for Postmates was charged with reckless endangerment after he ran a red light on a bike without brakes and fatally struck a 67-year-old pedestrian, Donna Sturm.
In 2020, e-bike fatalities surged 233 percent — to 20 from just six in 2019, according to city Department of Transportation data. There have been eight fatalities so far this year, including at least two pedestrians.
A Community Board 7 committee voted last week to ban electric bikes from bike lanes, underscoring the mayhem and close calls they’ve caused on the Upper West Side.
As for my case, the courier has not been charged because Postmates has failed to positively identify the driver or accept responsibility. Neither the name nor Newark address they had for the driver was real, yet they supposedly vet their delivery people. I hope for the public’s safety that he is not still out there, delivering for this or any other company.
These couriers can be reckless, but so can the companies they work for.
Keep in mind that Postmates — a $2-billion company that was just bought by Uber — essentially encourages highly dangerous conditions by incentivizing couriers to deliver as much as possible as fast as possible, even offering time-frame bonuses called “crushers.” How ironic.
As for my incident, an Uber representative told The Post, “Postmates was a separate company at the time, so we can’t comment on the particulars.”
So many pleasures of life are now elusive for me. Even eating is a struggle. Before the accident, I was always socializing and networking. Now I avoid people and situations that make me anxious because I have no upper teeth and I don’t have the musculature to crack a smile — once my best feature. The injuries cause me shame and humiliation.
Eventually, when I can finally get implants, the trauma still won’t be behind me — and not just because I’ll likely have to go through even more surgeries in 10 or 15 years.
As a lifelong New Yorker I always felt intrepid. Now, I’m fearful at every turn. I used to walk several miles a day, but the simple act of crossing the street actually scares me. When an e-bike comes around a corner like a bat out of hell, I scream, “Watch it!” and burst into tears.
We can no longer be terrorized by this hell on two wheels. The city must greatly restrict e-bikes before having a brush with death becomes a perverse rite of passage for New Yorkers.
Doree Lewak is a feature writer for The Post.