NYPD Seized 247 E-Bikes, Saving Zero Lives

Can you remember the last time police took deadly illegal trucks off the streets?

NYPD's crackdown on electric-assist bikes won't make NYC streets safer. Photo: NYPD
NYPD's crackdown on electric-assist bikes won't make NYC streets safer. Photo: NYPD

NYPD officers confiscated 247 electric-assist bikes in a 24-hour period on Wednesday, AMNY reports. E-bikes remain illegal under state law even though federal rules have permitted them for years.

The sting appears to be part of a citywide crackdown in the name of traffic safety. “FYI: as weather gets warmer… local precincts [and NYPD’s transportation bureau] will be seizing illegal ATV’s, E-bikes & motorcycles,” NYPD transit bureau Chief Joseph Fox tweeted. Precincts across Manhattan posted photos of the dozens of bikes confiscated, usually with some reference to Vision Zero.

Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan’s feed is also awash in images of impounded electric bicycles.

While riding an e-bike on the sidewalk can be a hazard, NYPD’s approach to enforcement is out of all proportion to the public safety risk.

People riding bicycles — both conventional and electric — are responsible for a vanishing trace of pedestrian fatalities in NYC. Drivers who speed and fail to yield remain the biggest causes of death. Yet the Midtown North precinct, which only issued 37 speeding tickets in the month of February [PDF], confiscated 38 bikes on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, for each commercial delivery worker who relies on an e-bike, confiscation by the NYPD means hundreds of dollars, maybe thousands, in fines and lost property.

Compare this week’s e-bike seizures and the accompanying PR blitz to NYPD’s response when drivers of oversized trucks injure or kill people on streets where they are not legally permitted to operate.

In October, after the driver of what appeared to be an oversized rig ran over and severely injured a cyclist at Jay and Tillary streets, the 84th Precinct responded with a ticket blitz against cyclists.

Through January and February of this year, Brooklyn’s 78th Precinct, where an off-route trucker killed 33-year-old cyclist James Gregg last April, had not issued a single truck route violation [PDF].

NYPD officers in Manhattan have only doled out 95 truck route violations this year so far, according to department records. That’s less than half the number of e-bikes confiscated on Wednesday alone.

If police have ever gone on a social media spree to trumpet the seizure of dangerous illegal trucks in New York City, it has escaped our attention.

The e-bike enforcement in Manhattan reflects resident complaints about cycling in the borough, which often focus on delivery cyclists. Even Mayor de Blasio has said the city will “continue to deepen” “targeted enforcement of bicyclists.”

But what the NYPD is doing this week is just for show. It’s not going to make people safer — it’s just making life harder for working cyclists. E-bikes are not going anywhere. The city should be working on a strategy to safely integrate them into the transportation system, instead of pursuing this punitive approach.

“Delivery cyclists get a raw deal in our city and this is a prime example,” City Council transportation chair Ydanis Rodriguez said in a statement to AMNY. “Instead of confiscating their means of making a living, the city should find ways to work with this often-silent workforce.”

  • Joe R.

    The solution here is very easy. Restaurants should immediately stop offering delivery to their customers. If the customer asks why, they mention the constant ticketing of delivery cyclists, plus the confiscation of their bikes, means it’s no longer cost effective to deliver. It’ll be up to Manhattan residents to decide which is more important—their endless whining about bikes which causes the police to target cyclists, or getting their food delivered.

    And when is NYS going to finally do what the other 49 states have done to make these bikes legal?

    Why aren’t the police confiscating trucks over 55′? Those are illegal to operate in NYC also?

  • Larry Littlefield

    Remember, the police only do this sort of thing when they are ordered to do so. No one becomes a cop to hand out tickets.

  • AnoNYC

    Very few Manhattanites complain about the ebikes. A vocal minority of predominantly several seniors many years ago created these crackdowns. James Vacca at the helm.

  • AnoNYC

    This is bull$hit.

    What do we have to do in order to change the law? Doesn’t the conflict with federal law mean that the city must abide?

    “also illegal ATV’s, E-bikes & motorcycles”

    An obsession that will also have miniscule impact on traffic safety. The only ones who even stop are those who are licensed, registered and insured!

  • Walter Crunch

    The illusion of safety
    Much like the TSA.

  • Joe R.

    So we have the tyranny of the minority? That makes this enforcement even more disgusting. If e-bikes are ridden in such a way as to endanger pedestrians, there are already laws on the books to deal with that. Banning them is like throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Also, as you wrote above, I’m pretty sure NYC has to comply with federal law and allow them. If it doesn’t, maybe some safe streets activists should try to get Congress to withhold federal road funding from NYC until it does.

  • AnoNYC

    Looking at the eBikes, it’s obvious that they are attacking the immigrant delivery workers. Easy to scapegoat a group with little political power. This whole thing reeks with discrimination as well.

    Are Trans Alt and the StreetPAC communities for these people or what?

  • Hale

    I agree this was a waste of time but guess what!? This law is on the books. Stop blaming the police for everything. Let’s get this stupid law repealed. This one and a couple other ones. S*&##!@g on the police constantly is getting old and nothing ever changes.

  • Reader

    The police frequently choose which laws to enforce. Many of these precincts have issued fewer than 30 speeding tix in 2 months. I’m fine with criticizing the NYPD’s priorities.

  • Chief Scags

    Bullshit. They pick and choose what, where and when they want to enforce laws like these. It’s entirely NYPD’s own discretion. Dangerous drivers aren’t facing enforcement because NYPD resources go toward nonsense like this.

  • Vooch

    Drivers sent a New Yorkers to the hospital every 11 minutes in Feb.

    Ebikes ?

    not one injury from a ebike. not one

  • Lenny Delorenzo

    This is why fewer people respect the police. Picking on the poor. The little guy. This is why people are killing the police. .

  • Taishawn Prince

    I agree. Seems like when something positive always happens the damn police or govt fucks it up

  • Taishawn Prince

    So is anal sex but w/e great comparison

  • TheCoop

    The police,are anti-bike,because in the spirit of things,they know that bikes cause real headaches for drivers and pedestrians.And that they don’t deserve equal space in an expanding,car centric society(especially NYC).You sound like a whining spoiled brat,trying to push bike lanes and the bicycle agenda down everyones throat.Most Manhattan residents can’t stand the inconvenience of the bike lanes;and CitiI bike is stealing parking spaces everywhere.

  • Jeb Hagan

    Cars cause real headaches for pedestrians and cyclists. And they don’t deserve equal space in what is actually the LEAST car centric city in America. You sound like a self-centered person with an inflated sense of entitlement, trying to push the car agenda and car lanes down everyone’s throat. Most Manhattan residents should think about the fact that if more people ride bikes instead of driving, then there would be less traffic and more places to park. You can park 12 bikes in a parking space–too bad cars are stealing bike parking everywhere.

  • Joe R.

    Manhattan is the last place in the country where cars should matter. Most people who live or work there don’t drive. Explain what’s wrong with the city trying to give equal space to people who walk or bike, instead of the minority who drive.

    And Citibike isn’t stealing parking. It is parking. It’s also more efficient parking. You can get 10 or 12 vehicles in the space of one motor vehicle. Seems like better use of the limited space.

    Oh, and fuck the police. Most of them don’t even live in the city. They come in like an occupation force. They have no idea how cities work, which is why they pick on bikes while ignoring the motor vehicles which kill over 200 people each year (and easily ten times that due to the air pollution they cause).

  • PO

    State law trumps federal law!

  • Joe R.

    Whether that’s true or not the federal government can still withhold funding if you fail to comply with whatever stipulations it sets to be eligible for that funding. For example, the feds require that you allow right turns on red in order to qualify for certain types of road funding. NYC successfully gets a waiver from this. We could push Congress to include allowing e-bikes as a stipulation for funding, and refuse to grant any localities a waiver. NYC could still ban e-bikes in that scenario but it’ll cost them a pretty penny in federal aid. I think that’s the route we should take. Every other major city allows e-bikes. The sky isn’t falling in these places. I’d rather have delivery people riding small, non-polluting e-bikes than driving massive, polluting motor vehicles.

  • TheCoop

    Hey moron..maybe one day you’ll grow up and realize how much $$ people who use cars put into Manhatattans economy.And that commerce is vehicle dependent .And the $$ suburbanites who feed Bwy shows contribute.And that Manhattanites use cars all the time,you moron.That’s why they hate bike lanes.They impede traffic,and people who use Ubers and taxis are Manhatattanites.And that you,and the selfish,entitled green minority that flood community boards meetings,and shove these things down everyones throat,are the entitled ones.You can walk anywhere in the city,no one is anti pedestrian.Oh,lastly,your hatred for the police is betelling of a true moron.Why,you ignorant,history starved dope,do you think NY is by far the safest city in the country?You are too young to remember the bad old days.

  • TheCoop

    My reply to Joe R is for you ,too.You must be under 30&devoid of common sense wisdom.

  • Joe R.

    Last I checked there were traffic jams in Manhattan long before they were bike lanes. It may come as a surprise to you but cars are usually delayed by other cars, not by bikes. I’m not seeing how bike lanes impede traffic. Bikes are traffic. Look no further than the vehicle in front of you as the real cause for your delay.

    FYI I’m 54 and remember the so-called bad old days well. There are lots of reasons why crime dropped. The police were only a small part of the equation. I’m fine when the police do what they’re supposed to do, which is shoot criminals. When they start harassing people just trying to earn a living that’s going too far. Many NYers, not just those who ride bikes, have complained of getting tickets for things they did for years, even decades, without any problems. That includes nonsense like being in the park after dark, quietly drinking beer on a park bench, and so forth. That’s why lots of people here hate the police. If the police just went after dangerous criminals, they have my full support.

    maybe one day you’ll grow up and realize how much $$ people who use cars put into Manhatattans economy. And that commerce is vehicle dependent.

    I never complained about vehicles needed for commerce, like delivery trucks. Private automobiles are the problem. They also happen to delay these delivery trucks, costing NYC billions in lost time each year. I fail to see how these private autos contribute more to the economy than they cost.

    And the $$ suburbanites who feed Bwy shows contribute.

    Again, if they come by car they probably cost the city more than whatever money they might spend. I welcome people coming into the city by bus, train, or bike. If you’re going to drive in, stay home. I might understand that someone isn’t near a train station. Fine. Drive as close to the city as you can, park your car near a train station close to the city, and take the train the rest of the way. It’s probably faster doing that anyway given the traffic.

    There’s no reason to use insults, either.

  • Joe R.

    Said by one who hasn’t a clue how cities work.

  • IlIlIl

    Got data to support that?

  • kevin

    Most Manhattan residents don’t drive, and European and Asian cities have shown us that bikes are far more efficient in urban communities than cars are. You sound like an entitled car owner (or commuter) who hates the fact that he can’t have free and abundant parking everywhere.

  • kevin

    I don’t know why you’re so obsessed with cars. You can drive around all over the place outside of the city. Stop acting entitled.

  • Vooch

    sigh – http://nyc.streetsblog.org/2015/04/02/nypd-drivers-injured-816-pedestrians-and-cyclists-in-february-and-killed-11/

    do you know that tractor trailers 55′ and longer are illegal in NYC without a extremely difficult to get permit ?

    those monsters kill and maim hundreds of times each and every year. Yet, one sees NYPD ignoring these dangerous all the time.

  • Vooch

    cyclists spend more money at shops than drivers

    drivers are usually broke because they have to pay for gas, insurance, and a car payment.

    cyclists therefore have on average $1,000 more spending money than car owners.

    Understand your frustration with being a car driver, it’s a pain to store, its inconvient, and its ugly.

  • AnoNYC

    Archie Bunker?

  • AnoNYC

    *serious injury

    I’m sure there have been collisions involving ebikes, but they are not responsible for a single death in NYC.

  • AnoNYC

    Damn police.

  • AnoNYC

    Supremacy clause!

  • e-bikes don’t kill people. Speedy cars do.. They only pick on poor Chinese delivery guys; they know Chinese people don’t usually fight back. Easy money for them..

  • IlIlIl

    do you know that tractor trailers 55′ and longer are illegal in NYC without a extremely difficult to get permit ?

    Yeah. I know.

    those monsters kill and maim hundreds of times each and every year. Yet, one sees NYPD ignoring these dangerous all the time.

    Yeah the NYPD does and I’ve typed my displeasure about that.

    let’s see NYPD confiscate 247 illegal tractor trailers and then we can talk

    I’d love to see that happen too.

    I just felt the need to call you on the no injuries from ebikes thing since I’ve seen quite a few.

    But hey…I’m picking the middle so I’m an easy target on this one.

  • IlIlIl

    Doesn’t the conflict with federal law mean that the city must abide?

    I want you to really think on that statement for awhile and remember some of the shit this jackass is trying to squeeze through.


  • AnoNYC
  • K2

    You say fuck the police but I’d be willing to bet you’re quick to call them when you feel threatened in a minor way. You can’t be a snowflake and a tough guy at the same time hun. Relax.

  • Driver

    As someone who has driven a delivery truck in Manhattan for many years, I can assure you that the increase in traffic after the installation of protected bike lanes many years ago was nothing compared to the increase in traffic after the proliferation of Uber and competing companies. You could ban all bikes and remove all the bike lanes and traffic would remain a shit show.

  • NYPD should start using e-bikes to improve first responder capabilities, not ban them.

  • Joe R.

    Nope, never called the police. I’m happy to defend myself. I used to carry around a knife back in the bad old days. I drew it a handful of times to chase off bad guys. If NYC had sane gun laws I’d carry a pistol for self-defense.

  • Jim G

  • WHR

    I’m 100% pro bike and pro bike lane. Less cars means less traffic generally but there are caveats that are especially relevant to NYC that need adressing in order to achieve the designed and desired benefit of cycling on our transportation network and heath (think smog, not just excercise.) #1: The addition of bike lanes is a disaster without enforcement of illegal double parking on north south thouroughfares. Overnight I saw Amsterdam go down to one lane when trucks would double park on both sides of the street the day after the bike lane went in.

    We’re doing future city brainy stuff here, the rules are very very important.

    #2: Driving a single passenger vehicle to work if you live on top of a faster mass transit option is ludicrous, and you contribute lopsidedly to our transit woes. Elderly people to immobile for subway stairs spend their whole days stuck in traffic on busses because people choose an irresponsible existing transportation method.

    Don’t worry, soon we will have express bus/carpool/commercial lanes and there will be a single lane only for the 500,000 people who drive to work downtown. I support your right to drive, but I think you should be paying a very heavy penalty to do it in the city. And finally #3 we gotta find a way to get people into the bike lanes. Usage is abyssmal in many areas because we already have the subway which is a great option. Citi Bike should be doing promotional and pricing trials all over the place. If you’ve actually tried to commute on a citi bike…it’s shockingly glorious when it works. And it’s nearly impossible to be ovverweight if you bike commute 20mins or more each way to work on a bike.

    People, the writing is on the wall with single passenger vehicles, let’s be a part if the solution and embrace the future. One day far off in the future, we will get to reclaim whole sides of streets that used to be parking and make them community space. Quality of life will skyrocket. Car sharing for vacations groceries etc has to take a quantum leap forward in the meantime.

  • WHR

    Between the real estate cars take up and the lost health and productivity that single occupant vehicles cost, there’s simply no way cars are anything but a burden on the city as a whole. Although if they were effectively shared and stored amoungst those who need them, they fit nicely in a comprehensive transportation network. PS, if everyone who can afford to drove a car in NYC, it would take you 8 hours to cross any borough.

  • WHR

    I really like your post! A note on cars and cities: here in NYC and across the country, automakers secretly purchased then dismantled street car networks in order to sell cars and necessitate their need. One day we will have a diverse and efficient transpo network where the occasional need for a car is efficiently divided among hundreds in terms of cost and storage. Most of my UWS neighbors literally only use their car for summer getaways, there has to be a better way. In 20 or so years, we can even reclaim entire sides of streets once used for parking for more urban green space…can you imagine?

  • WHR

    Looking ahead and beyond, we have a huge generation about to enter their elder years and subways are a disaster of patchwork handicapped access. Many seniors take the bus and we have an obligation to make our city move better to so we all have an equitable chance to get somewhere on time. The single occupancy cars are really going to hate city wide bus/carpool express lanes when they inevitably go in to serve the voters.

  • Joe R.

    Thanks! And I sincerely hope the shared car model takes off sooner rather than later. The sooner we do that the more quickly we can repurpose what was once parking space.

  • Jeb Hagan

    Actually I’m 41 and have a master’s degree in urban planning, thanks though.

  • Joseph S

    The poor criminals? They chose to ride illegal motorcycles. They have been getting away with it for so long due to NYPD laziness. I’m glad the NYPD is finally doing its job and getting these criminals off the streets.

  • Joseph S

    We need to make it legal for bicycles to run red lights when safe. The law requiring motorcycles to be registered like any other motor vehicle and for the rider to have a valid motorcycle license is a good one.

  • Joseph S

    There are plenty of legal ways to get rood delivered.