Mayor Suspends E-Bike Crackdown During Coronavirus Outbreak

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

Updated | Mayor de Blasio will suspend the NYPD’s ongoing crackdown on e-bike delivery workers amid the growing coronavirus crisis — an announcement that came hours after local pols and advocates demanded the city immediately halt issuing tickets and seizing e-bikes as delivery workers tirelessly bring food to quarantining New Yorkers.

“We will be suspending enforcement while restaurants are take-out and delivery only,” said City Hall spokeswoman Freddi Goldstein.

The mayor said that guidance would be given to police officers to make sure that the enforcement suspension was understood.

“The same way we do everything else, we give guidance to every precinct,” the mayor told reporters when asked how the new policy would be communicated. “The NYPD can get that instruction out very quickly.”

The decision to suspend the enforcement comes after two members of the City Council wrote a letter to the mayor asking him to suspend enforcement against e-bike delivery riders while the city’s restaurants were limited to providing takeout and delivery service.

“As the city shuts down schools, and prepares to limit all restaurants, bars, and cafes to take-out and delivery, it is no secret that most workers who will be preparing and delivering these meals will be immigrants,” Brooklyn Council Member Carlos Menchaca and Manhattan Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez wrote on Monday to the mayor. “It cannot be the case that during this city, state, and national emergency, that the threat of fines, summons, or other enforcement measures hang over these New Yorkers who will put their lives at risk to deliver food to everyone.”

The two pols warned that the workers don’t have the privilege of staying inside their homes and away from people, and so at the very least should not have to worry about getting a ticket while doing their jobs to keep everyone else fed.

“These workers will not have the luxury of self-quarantining, and the precariousness of their jobs underscores that fact. We must provide them and their families with the certainty that the NYPD will not use this moment as an opportunity to crack down on the technology they are using to keep us fed,” the pols wrote.

Advocates for delivery riders hailed the move to protect the vulnerable working population, and urged the state government to come through on its end to finally pass a bill legalizing e-bikes throughout New York.

“We are glad to hear that the City is taking a long overdue step to allow delivery workers on e-bikes to bring food to New Yorkers without fear of police harassment,” said Do Lee of the Biking Public Project, who took the mayor to task on Sunday night for asking New Yorkers to rely on the same workers he previously cracked down on. “We hope the City will continue to listen to workers about their safety needs as they will bear enormous risks to help people. We also call on the City and State governments to make permanent the legalization of delivery worker e-bikes.”

Julie Tighe, the president of the New York League of Conservation Voters, tweeted a thanks to the riders and also called for Albany to get its bill done. “How about we also make e-bikes legal so this isn’t a problem in the future?,” Tighe tweeted.


“Our elected leaders in Albany must legalize e-bikes, the vehicles which have for years allowed delivery workers to complete their rounds, and now, will literally put food on our tables,” Danny Harris, the Executive Director at Transportation Alternatives said. “New Yorkers owe a huge debt of gratitude to all those stepping up to support our city during this crisis.”

The city and state will also have to work to make the lives of delivery riders safer on the streets themselves and in the case of a work slow down, advocates said.

“Especially amidst #COVID19, every possible protection must be extended to these workers, including wage replacements,” immigrant rights organization Make the Road New York tweeted.

City Council members joined advocates in hailing the enforcement pause, and promised to not let the situation end with a temporary ban.

“We will continue fighting for the rights of all delivery worker, especially during this time,” said Council Member Rodríguez. “We need to be supporting New York’s delivery workers, and make sure this suspension is permanent.”

Council Member Costa Constantinides, who demanded that the NYPD stop confiscating the e-bikes in January after the Governor vetoed a bill to legalize motorized scooters, suggested it was about time a move like this was made.

“We should have decriminalized e-bikes months ago, when Albany indicated it would find a path to legalizing them,” Constantinides said. “With an impending rush of meal deliveries about to come, food service workers should be able to do their job without fear of financial penalties.”

City Council Member Carlina Rivera echoed advocates who demanded further action, tweeting “let’s permanently stop targeting these low-wage workers.”

Mayor de Blasio on Sunday night mandated all restaurants and bars to shutter by Tuesday 9 a.m. — an order later overruled by Gov. Cuomo, who said they must close by Monday 8 p.m. — and move to provide only take-out and delivery — putting delivery workers, most of them immigrant men of color, on the front lines amid the growing crisis.

Without the halt in enforcement, de Blasio’s order would have left immigrant delivery riders vulnerable to police enforcement while the riders brought food to self-quarantined New Yorkers. Delivery riders have been slapped with 50 tickets for e-bike use between January 1 and March 8 this year, according to city data. That rate of 1.36 tickets per day is lower than almost three summonses per day handed out in 2019, but is still more than zero summonses.

And in a wartime footing, as the mayor has suggested we are in, he’s placing undue stress on communities who, as advocates have pointed out, are being expected to shoulder so much of the burden.

“Immigrant communities are on the front lines both in terms of impact and response to the coronavirus pandemic,” Steve Choi, the Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition, told reporters on Monday morning.

This story was updated at 4:25 p.m. to reflect additional information provided by the Mayor’s Office.