Cyclists to NYPD: ‘This is Not Justice!’

Earlier this year, cyclists and advocates rallied against the NYPD crackdown on e-bikers at the Midtown North stationhouse. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
Earlier this year, cyclists and advocates rallied against the NYPD crackdown on e-bikers at the Midtown North stationhouse. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

Scores of cyclists — but only one elected official — took their fight against police abuse against delivery workers to the Midtown North stationhouse on Friday, rallying to cap off a week in which one cyclist was killed by a still-at-large hit-and-run driver, another cyclist was tackled by a police captain and several riders were slapped with tickets for actions that are not even illegal.

Chanting the names of delivery workers and other cyclists who have been killed by drivers, including Chaim Joseph on Monday, protesters not only decried the NYPD for disproportional crackdowns on cyclists, but also a mayor who proclaims New York as “the Fairest City in America” yet directs officers to target immigrant workers who rely on electric bikes to scrape out a living.

JoAnn Yoo
JoAnn Yoo

“We are seeing incredibly oppressive and discriminatory actions [by] the NYPD,” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca of Sunset Park, where two of the named workers were killed recently. “The mayor refuses to tell his NYPD to stop focusing on immigrants, the people of color, the people who are delivering our food to our apartments.”

He then began an Operation Wall Street-style mic-check chant, that echoed across W. 54th Street and into the Midtown North building. “Mr. Mayor. NYPD. We are a sanctuary city. Stop criminalizing our immigrants. Our e-bike workers. Our neighbors. … These are our streets and we deserve justice. E-bike workers deserve justice. Now. Now. Now.”

JoAnn Yoo of the Asian American Federation, one of the organizers of the hastily arranged rally, recalled a Streetsblog story from last week which chronicled more than a dozen e-bike food deliveries to 1 Police Plaza on the coldest day of the year.

“How do you spell ‘hypocrisy,” she asked. “N-Y-P-D!”

“If you are going to crack down on delivery workers, at least don’t benefit from their hard work. This is called hypocrisy,” she added.

Immigrant delivery workers — who have had hundreds of bikes confiscated since Mayor de Blasio’s crackdown began last year — were invited to share their stories at the rally, but none appeared because they were too scared of the police, said Do Lee of the Biking Public Project, which organizes a campaign called “Deliver Justice.”

“Two-thirds of the workers who are robbed or assaulted never report it,” he added. “They are too afraid of the police.”

Here is the tackling incident on Thursday that will stoke rage today.
Here is the tackling incident on Thursday that stoked rage today.

One delivery worker, who gave the name Rigo, said the NYPD crackdown against cyclists makes no sense. “You don’t make the streets safer by ticketing the lowest-paid, hardest-working people.”

The NYPD says its enforcement against illegal electric bikes stems is a matter of public safety, but police officials have never offered statistics suggesting that e-bikes are causing crashes in any significant numbers. Of the 201 people who died on the roads of New York City last year, none was killed by a bike rider.

The NYPD declined to answer specific questions about Midtown North’s crackdown this week, but NYPD spokesman Phil Walzak said that the agency’s chief of patrol “is reviewing the incident, and the enforcement protocols leading up to it.”

He also offered a more general statement about the enforcement effort overall:

Council Member Carlos Menchaca.
Council Member Carlos Menchaca.

“Vision Zero priority enforcement focuses on the most dangerous violations: vehicle speeding and failure to yield,” he said. “So far this week, the NYPD has issued tens of thousands of parking summons to motor vehicles, 9,982 moving violations to motor vehicles, and 463 summonses to bikes. More than 99.8% of summonses are issued to vehicles, not bikes.”

Transportation Alternatives spokesman Joe Cutrufo mocked the NYPD statement.

“Statistics don’t change the fact that the NYPD routinely engages in crackdowns on biking in the aftermath of crashes where people on bikes are the victims,” he said. “If we’re going to encourage more people to travel by bike, this isn’t the way to do it. The fairest big city in America shouldn’t tolerate police who act like the linebackers of the bike lanes.”

Streetsblog asked mayoral spokesman Seth Stein two question about the ongoing crackdown and Thursday’s incident:

1. How can we be America’s Fairest City if low-income, mostly minority, delivery people are treated this way?
2. How can we be America’s Fairest City if cops routinely target cyclists after a cyclist is killed by a driver?

We received this response:

Enforcement must be — and is — directed towards speeding cars and anyone who fails to yield to pedestrians. The NYPD is appropriately looking into this incident and ensuring the precinct’s traffic enforcement targets the most dangerous behaviors that put New Yorkers at risk.”

City officials also said that 3,855 moving violations were issued to cars in Midtown North precinct and 315 moving violations were issued to bikes in that same area. They touted the ratio as 93-to-7.

Cycling represents just 1 percent of all trips in the city, statistics show.

Update: An earlier version of this story misidentified cycling victim Chaim Joseph due to an erroneous initial NYPD report.