Shameful Scenes From de Blasio’s Crackdown on Delivery Workers Who Use Electric Bikes

As NYPD boasts about confiscating bikes from people trying to support themselves and their families, cyclists continue to face the real mortal threat on NYC streets.

NYPD collects e-bikes on First Avenue in Manhattan. Photo: @belleoflonglake/Twitter
NYPD collects e-bikes on First Avenue in Manhattan. Photo: @belleoflonglake/Twitter

As promised, Mayor de Blasio’s crackdown on electric bikes is in effect. NYPD precincts are boasting about confiscating bikes from delivery workers in the name of Vision Zero, though there is no evidence that e-bike riders pose a significant public safety threat.

Over the weekend, the 19th Precinct, on the Upper East Side, tweeted a photo of seized e-bikes:

This morning the 108th Precinct said officers were taking parked e-bikes and scooters from streets and sidewalks in Long Island City:

Midtown South bragged about “Vision Zero safety initiative” e-bike seizures, in a tweet that was subsequently deleted.

And last week, Transportation Alternatives Queens organizer and Biking Public Project co-founder Jessame Hannus posted the above photo of a 13th Precinct bike sting at 21st Street and First Avenue, where officers were collecting bikes as delivery workers rode by in the bike lane.

Announced last fall, de Blasio’s crackdown was triggered by Upper West Side resident Matthew Shefler, whose complaints about e-bike riders were amplified by WNYC. The city has produced no data to back up the mayor’s contention that training NYPD traffic enforcement resources on delivery workers — many of whom are immigrants, middle-aged or older, who need e-bikes to meet the physical demands of the job — will make streets safer.

To the contrary, available information suggests the e-bike threat is all but non-existent. In the latest installment of his essay on de Blasio’s war on delivery workers — read it here — Biking Public Project organizer Do Lee says that, according to NYPD, statistics on injuries determined to be caused by e-bike riders are lumped with other cyclist-caused crashes. Writes Lee:

In NYC, cyclist-caused injuries comprise only a tiny fraction of all traffic-related injuries — in 2016 for example, cyclists caused only about half of one percent (0.5% or 311 of 60,399) of all traffic injuries. Thus e-bike riders as a fraction of this number are simply not causing a high rate of injuries.

At a recent Community Board 7 meeting, the 20th Precinct, which covers the Upper West Side, said that out of 58 bike crashes in 2017, only one involved an e-bike rider, according to Village Voice reporter Christopher Robbins.

E-bikes are legal to own, but due to a quirk in state law are illegal to ride. Rather than ignore the law, as the city mostly did before, or work to get it changed, de Blasio has chosen to make an example of people who rely on e-bikes to support themselves and their families, hitting them with hefty fines, loss of personal property, and in some cases the possibility of deportation.

De Blasio insists he’s targeting business owners rather than delivery workers themselves, but that’s a fiction, since most workers are employed as independent contractors and use their own bikes.

Says Lee:

Jiang, a Chinese delivery worker, told us that delivery workers used to be primarily scared of being robbed. Now he says, “We get scared when we see the police — fear in the heart. Every ticket is $500. Receiving two tickets, one month’s work goes down the drain.”

While NYPD terrorizes working cyclists, people on bikes continue to face the real mortal threat on NYC streets. More city cyclists were killed by motorists in 2017 than in any year since 2007.