Advocates: Cuomo Must Save Delivery Riders From More NYPD Enforcement

The real target of CB7's wrath. File photo: Wilfred Chan
The real target of CB7's wrath. File photo: Wilfred Chan

Almost 300 delivery workers have lost a week’s pay, or more, in the ongoing NYPD crackdown on e-bike riders since the state legislature overwhelmingly approved a bill that legalized e-bikes in New York State — a measure that has not become law because Gov. Cuomo won’t sign it for some reason.

With Mayor de Blasio unwilling to rein in the NYPD, advocates are calling on the governor to put a stop to the ongoing harassment with his pen.

“The impact the current enforcement regime has on food delivery workers, with their bikes being confiscated and riders being ticketed, is far out of proportion from the supposed harm or risk they cause on the streets,” said Marco Conner, the co-deputy director at Transportation Alternatives.

The NYPD did not respond to multiple requests for comment on how many e-bikes had been seized since the bill to legalize e-bikes was passed on June 21. But the city’s open data portal shows that 286 illegal e-bike summonses have been handed out between June 22 and Nov. 7, a rate of just over two summonses per day. That’s a slight decrease from 2.7 summonses issued per day between Jan. 1 and June 21 — but it’s still more than the zero summonses that would be handed out of the bikes were actually legalized as the state legislature intended.

There’s a bit of technical information necessary to understand what’s going on. The legislature has indeed passed the bill, but it has not “delivered” it to Cuomo because delivering the bill means that Cuomo must sign it within 10 days or it is effectively vetoed. As a result, the legislature is reluctant to deliver bills that might be vetoed — and Cuomo has not requested the bill from the legislature, either, which suggests he isn’t ready to sign it.

If the e-bike bill isn’t signed by Dec. 31, it would have to be re-passed in the next legislative session. The bill passed by veto-proof majorities of 56-6 in the State Senate and 137-4 in the Assembly, but Cuomo hesitated on endorsing it at the end of this year’s legislative session, and his hesitation is affecting the lives of every day New Yorkers just trying to do their jobs.

“Delivery workers are still being impacted by this on a daily basis,” Helen Ho, the co-founder of the Biking Public Project, said. “And the longer this bill doesn’t get signed, the more harmful it will be to New York’s most vulnerable citizens.”

Cuomo told reporters that he had some safety concerns about the bill. At one point, citing unnamed “safety advocates,” Cuomo suggested he might want to add a helmet requirement to the bill. Since then, his office has gone dark beyond stating that the bill remains “under review,” which has meant delivery riders continue to operate outside the law when they bring you your lunch.

One possibility is that the governor is just busy. The last legislative sessions was hugely successful, and there remain many bills that have not been signed.

“There are around 350 or 375  bills that have had no movement, and this just happen to be in that larger pile of bills,” an Albany source told Streetsblog.

As for the helmet idea the governor brought up in June, the source said that on the one hand, people have “tried to highlight for the governor how advocates have pushed back against [Mayor de Blasio] even with scarce talk of helmet laws, but ultimately it was “not something we’re hearing that’s specifically a sticking point.”

Speaking of the mayor, advocates still see the mess on the streets as one that de Blasio made and could put a stop to whenever he wanted to, simply by ordering the NYPD to alter its priorities towards vehicles that cause virtually every death and injury on New York City streets.

“The mayor shouldn’t escape accountability here,” Conner said, “because all of this has occurred due to his call for increased enforcement and his continuation of it. He could have the NYPD stop it right now.”

Activists couldn’t help but see an irony in de Blasio’s continued crackdown on delivery workers in what he calls “America’s most progressive big city.” First, these workers tend to be the lowest paid. Plus, the mayor has created a loophole for pedal-assist electric bikes, largely to enable Citi Bike to offer its well-heeled members the convenience of a speedier ride that de Blasio is denying workers.

“As Citi Bike #ebikes return for its mostly privileged ridership, [the] NYPD continues to harass immigrant delivery bike workers,” said Do Lee of the Biking Public Project. “[Gov. Cuomo]: stop enabling de Blasio’s racist war on immigrant delivery workers by immediately signing ebike legislation to #DeliverJustice!”

It’s the same point that State Senator Tim Kennedy, the chairman of the Transportation Committee, made when he told Streetsblog “anyone who isn’t sympathetic to that cause wasn’t paying much attention to their struggles” after hearing the tales of delivery workers who had their bikes confiscated by the NYPD.

If anything, Conner said, it’s an opportunity for Cuomo to use his operatic feud with de Blasio to do some good.

“The governor has an opportunity here to address the wrongs committed by Mayor de Blasio,” Conner said.

We have reached out to City Hall for a comment, and will update this story if we hear back.