By: Jonathan Levin  | 

Yeshiva University Bans E-Bikes and E-Mobility Devices, Citing Fire Risk

E-Bicycles, e-scooters and other e-mobility devices — excluding cars — powered by lithium-ion batteries were banned from Yeshiva University’s graduate and undergraduate campuses at the start of the fall 2023 semester. 

The ban, developed by the university’s security, risk, legal and human resources departments, in conjunction with the Office of Student Life, was made due to the threat of fire from lithium-ion batteries in personal transportation devices, which have led to 14 deaths in New York City this year. The policy, similar to that of other universities in the city, went into effect Aug. 20.

The policy, which applies to all faculty, students, staff and visitors, allows for case-to-case exemptions for research or accessibility purposes, to be cleared through YU’s security department. 

Violators of the policy could face disciplinary action, including removal from university housing, and e-bikes or e-mobility devices found by university staff may be disposed of by university staff without reimbursement or notice, according to an announcement from YU’s security department.

As of last month, there have been over 100 lithium-ion battery fires from e-bikes and e-mobility devices in New York City this year, leading to 14 deaths, including four caused by an e-bike fire between St. Nicholas and Amsterdam Ave on W. 190 St., a few minutes walk from Yeshiva University’s Wilf Campus, last May.

Deaths from the first eight months of 2023 outpaced total deaths from 2022, when six people died and 147 were injured in a total of 220 lithium-ion battery-caused fires.

Many of the fires have been caused by batteries or chargers that fail to meet safety standards, and can lead to explosions as the battery fails. The fires, which burn at high temperatures and release toxic gasses, cannot be extinguished with water or fire extinguishers and often take hours to quell, as energy stored within the battery causes the fire to be self-sustaining.

The difficulty in extinguishing lithium-ion battery fires and the threat of toxic gasses were all cited by the university as reasons for the ban.

Other universities in New York, including New York University and Columbia University, have enacted similar policies.

The use of e-bikes and e-mobility devices rose during the pandemic due to increased demand for food delivery services and demand for alternatives to public transportation. In the absence of regulations governing the safety of lithium-ion batteries sold in the city, many devices sold did not meet battery safety standards. 

Legislation signed by Mayor Adams in March regulating such sales will go into effect Saturday.

YU’s security department, which announced the new policy, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.


Photo Caption: New York City Fire Department (FDNY) photo of the aftermath of a June fire that killed 4 in Chinatown. The fire was caused by a lithium-ion battery in an e-bike repair shop, according to the FDNY.

Photo Credit: New York City Fire Department