E-bike crackdown gets renewed scrutiny

A deliveryman on his Dongguan BuFengZhe (BFZ) electric bike making deliveries in New York in the Chelsea neighborhood.
A deliveryman on his Dongguan BuFengZhe (BFZ) electric bike making deliveries in New York in the Chelsea neighborhood.
Shutterstock
A deliveryman on his Dongguan BuFengZhe (BFZ) electric bike making deliveries in New York in the Chelsea neighborhood.

E-bike crackdown gets renewed scrutiny

Critics argue that the NYPD is seizing e-bikes and serving fines to delivery cyclists, who are often low-income immigrants.
June 7, 2019

The statewide effort to legalize e-bikes and e-scooters is heating up ahead of the end of session in Albany, but in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York Police Department are still drawing scrutiny over their crackdown on the illegal e-bikes on city streets. The real controversy in this debate is who the crackdown targets. Critics argue that the NYPD is seizing e-bikes and serving fines to delivery cyclists, who are often low-income immigrants.

In 2017, de Blasio made it clear that efforts to curb the illegal use of throttle e-bikes need to focus on “those at the top of the food chain,” meaning the restaurants and businesses that employ and sometimes require cyclists to use e-bikes. NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill also affirmed the notion that businesses would be held accountable. But earlier this year, the Legal Aid Society filed suit against the city Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings and the NYPD for allegedly ignoring its own rules by fining delivery cyclists rather than businesses.

On Wednesday, City & State requested information from the NYPD about its procedures when an officer encounters a delivery cyclist on an e-bike, but the department did not respond in time for publication. “Safety will always be the top priority on our streets,” de Blasio spokesman Seth Stein emailed in response to being asked about whether the mayor’s position has changed. “As the mayor has said many times, we need clarity from the state on all things e-transportation. The mayor’s position on e-bikes is unchanged.” Stein pointed to comments from April in which de Blasio reaffirms his intention to direct the crackdown to businesses and said he is having that conversation with the NYPD.

In the meantime, backlash to the crackdown has continued to grow, as evidenced when some NYPD precincts have tweeted pictures of seized e-bikes that appear to belong to delivery cyclists. One such post that drew particular criticism showed a confiscated e-bike with a child seat affixed to the back.

For the rest of today's tech news, head over to First Read Tech.

Annie McDonough
Annie McDonough
is a tech and policy reporter at City & State.
20190923