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.”

  • Ian

    From the outside looking in I think this is just the governments way of insuring public transportation isn’t radically hampered. There are e-bikes out there that can take you 38 miles and over, and there are plenty that are relatively cheap, some have quite a bit of speed to them. You can see the affects of e-bike in top gear when one man rode his against an alfa romeo and a guy using public transportation. It’s very obvious to me that E-bikes pose a threat to that infrastructure which is possibly part of how your city gains money, and so to protect the city’s interest they just outright banned them.

  • jdb26354

    Ebikes are motorized bikes and should be licensed not banned.

  • dr2chase

    Licensing e-bikes is a weird-ass NY state thing. Small motors, they’re bikes, they don’t need licensing.

  • jdb26354

    If the motors are so small, then they can be dropped from the bikes. If the motors are large enough to make a difference to the riders, which they are, then the bikes should be licensed. E-bikers want to have their cake and eat it too.

  • dr2chase

    Why should the bikes be licensed? What public purpose does that serve? Since e-bikes have killed zero pedestrians in New York, it will save zero lives, and zero is not a large number.

    As a practical matter, motors can make a difference yet not propel bikes at dangerous speeds — if nothing else, the law in many states (in particular California) requires a speed limit on the assist.

    (Note that I am not an e-biker, but I ride a 65lb cargo bike and can understand why people might want an assist, and perhaps when I am a smaller motor myself, will want one too.)

  • jdb26354

    The license is just a hassle, similar to the hassle imposed by the e-bikes on everybody else by zipping around at 2-3x the speed of regular bikes and yet claiming the right to use bike lanes. Restaurant deliveries existed in NYC long before e-bikes did. The city created the bike lanes for bikes. People are ripping on NYC for its e-bike policy, but skipping over the fact that NYC has installed hundreds of miles of bike lanes and supported the whole bike-sharing program. The e-bikes just want to commandeer bike lanes that were not intended for them. If people want to use e-bikes, let them ride them in the street with the cars.

  • dr2chase

    So you can’t point to a single death, just “hassle”? We license cars not because of hassle, but because of the notable harm they cause in actual accidents — thousands of pedestrians killed each year in the US. Other states — and Europe too — manage to treat e-bikes like bikes. What makes NYC so special? What makes NYC’s bike lanes so special?

    People are ripping on NYC because they’re imposing a needless burden that serves no actual purpose, and we know this because other places do it differently and get good results.

  • Andrew

    They can’t be registered in New York State, even if you wanted to: https://dmv.ny.gov/registration/motorized-devices-cannot-be-registered-new-york

  • corners1

    False. Ebikes are “low speed electric bicycles”, and specifically NOT motorized vehicles as defined by US law 15 U.S.C. 2085(b). In conformance with legislation adopted by the U.S. Congress defining this category of electric-power bicycle (15 U.S.C. 2085(b)), CPSC rules stipulate that low speed electric bicycles (to include two- and three-wheel vehicles) are exempt from classification as motor vehicles providing they have fully operable pedals, an electric motor of less than 750W (1 hp), and a top motor-powered speed of less than 20 miles per hour (32 km/h) when operated by a rider weighing 170 pounds. An electric bike remaining within these specifications is subject to the CPSC consumer product regulations for a bicycle. Commercially manufactured e-bikes exceeding these power and speed limits are regulated by the federal DOT and NHTSA as motor vehicles, and must meet additional safety requirements. The legislation enacting this amendment to the CPSC is also known as HR 727.

    Congress went out of their way to specifically label ebikes for what they are. Ebikes following the law can only assist up to 20 mph. An athletic human on an unassisted bicycle is capable of higher speeds. This higher speeds are generally coupled with bikes with thin low traction tires and some without any brakes at all (fixies). Legal ebikes have a lower top speed, a higher average speed, but better stopping distances.

    As dr2chase pointed out, ebikes cannot be registered, because congress specifically defined them NOT as motor vehicles. They are truly “ebikes”. I recommend you go try one.

  • corners1

    State law cannot trump federal law. In conformance with legislation adopted by the U.S. Congress defining this category of electric-power bicycle (15 U.S.C. 2085(b)), CPSC rules stipulate that low speed electric bicycles (to include two- and three-wheel vehicles) are exempt from classification as motor vehicles providing they have fully operable pedals, an electric motor of less than 750W (1 hp), and a top motor-powered speed of less than 20 miles per hour (32 km/h) when operated by a rider weighing 170 pounds.

  • jdb26354

    Your references to U.S. statute are irrelevant, unless you are claiming that federal statute supersedes local regulation of these vehicles. Alas, you do not make that claim. In fact, NYC offers a hot line for calling in e-bikes which are illegally using bike paths, such as along the Hudson River. E-bikes are proliferating and are a menace to the bikes for which the bike paths were built. Moreover, the vast majority of e-bikes are used by commercial delivery services, not by regular cyclists. Restaurants and dry cleaners have commandeered NYC bike paths with rapidly moving e-bikes, which are NOT bikes.

  • corners1

    Yes, Federal law trumps state law. Ebikes are BIKES. You should try one, and then you’ll understand. What’s more than likely in your case are people riding illegal ebikes. Ebikes are to do no more than 20 mph per law.

  • Bruce Cohen

    These DELIVERY riders are PRECISELY WHY E-BIKES are taking HEAT. THESE JERKS do not follow any traffic rules… they ride on curbs.. they roll down ONE-WAY streets.. and because of their BAD RIDING HABITS… ALL EBIKERS ARE TAKING HEAT.. I AM PRO E-BIKE but I am NOT PRO A-HOLE CHINA JERKS RIDING ON THEM LIKE MORONS…. they need to use HAND SIGNALS. .AND FOLLOW THE LIGHTS.. AND STOP ON REDS…

  • Bruce Cohen

    NYS SEEMINGLY IS A BIG PIECE OF SHIT… THATS WHY….
    I have been writing and writing till i turn BLUE in the face.. and all I get is .. runaround.. I sent emails to multiple COUNCIL PERSONS.. and NY state senator..and blah..blha….blha. i have BITCHED AT NYC.gov.. i have written to DE-BL-ASS-IO’s office.. this CITY IS A JOKE. when I ask cops about the EBIKES they could give a shit.. but, NY STATE MADE ME A FUCKING CRIMINAL BY REJECTING MTA.. and doing my OWN E-BIKE commuting.. they make a big fucking deal about BATTERY BIKES.. BUT THEY LET ALL THESE MANIACs drive around on WEST STREET LIKE ITS A RACING TRACK…

  • Bruce Cohen

    the ENTIRE — prohibition is RIDICULOUS.. as I stated. I have ridden an E-BIKE and I have had regular bicyclists just PASS ME.. to then RUN RED LIGHTS.. so, its ridiculous to single out —– an INANIMATE object like a EBIKE.. just cuz it has a BATTERY and a motor.

  • Bruce Cohen

    Who cares if COPS are ANTI-BIKE… fuck the CAR-CENTRIC society.. ever try going across town in a CAR? every day i pass 45 cars rolling down one city block..
    CARS ARE DESTROYING OUR AIR.. and THEY UNNECESSARILY POLLUTE our air, water and we need to move away from CARBON BURNING VEHICLES….. MORE REASON TO EMBRACE EBIKES…

  • Bruce Cohen

    WELL.. a great degree to have.. my old roommate has a URBAN PLANNING DEGREE.. does NY city actually do any urban planning? or is that reserved for NON-retards? this CITY seems to be run by RETARDOS.. w not much thinking skills..

  • jdb26354

    What you should do is ride a bike regularly around NYC, and then YOU will understand that NYC has an interest in keeping bike lanes for bikes. E-bikes regularly go much faster than bikes–if you see a bike where the rider isn’t peddling AT ALL but it’s going twice as fast as all the bikes … that would be your e-bike. The lack of need to peddle combined with the greater speed contributes to riders weaving between regular auto traffic lanes into bike lanes, and back again, wherever they can go fastest. These riders–as I said, almost exclusively delivery men–love the loophole which they think they’ve found. Too bad that the NYC.gov site specifically says “Electric bicycles are not capable of being registered by the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles and therefore their operation is prohibited in New York City.”

  • corners1

    If the Ebikes are going faster than 20 mph without pedaling, then they are illegal, and by definition a motor vehicle. Like I said, unassisted bikes have a faster top speed than a legal ebike. NYC needs to get on board and actually do something to improve safety. As the story pointed out, ebikes are not a safety issue.

  • Goodair

    Civil Rights Violation, any attorney want to make some money…

    NYPD is violating HR 727, confiscating rightfully owned articles. Illegal search and seizure…

  • Jafo Chitown

    Don’t the e-bikes work by pedaling also? Seems to me that the police would have to swear under oath that all e-bikes were being used electrically. I am sure some of these were being pedaled. Seems illegal to confiscate an item that is not illegal to own, just illegal to operate. A good lawyer could pickup a few hundred clients.

  • Jafo Chitown

    @jdb26354 you sound like an avid cyclist. The type who pushes for your own bike lane/path and demand that vehicles follow your rules. Yet you are probably also one of those elitist cyclists that refuse to follow the rules of the road. You probably blow through stop signs and stop lights because you think you deserve preferential treatment. Personally, I am so tired of you and your type!

  • Tony Bryant

    You are correct corners1… Federal Law is the Supreme Law of the Land, and no state can make law that is not in compliance with the Federal Standards… New York is the only state that wants to be different.

  • BG Davis

    DeBlasio is an idiot. What an incredibly stupid, senseless. unjustifiable and counterproductive policy. It’s now nearly 2018, and the tickets and confiscations continue. What is the point? Bikes are bikes. And they are far less dangerous to other people than cars.
    Making NYC worse, one day at a time.

  • BG Davis

    Thanks for raising a host of issues that have nothing to do with the problem or the topic. The topic is the banning of e-bikes throughout the city. You have chosen to focus on bike paths.
    Look, a squirrel!
    As for commercial delivery good on them for using ebikes instead of trucks or motorcycles. And again, your bike path issue is irrelevant.

  • BG Davis

    Why do you persist in twisting the issue to fit into your beloved bike lanes and bike paths? But since you insist: cars often drive in, park in, and open doors into bike lanes. Let’s ban cars!

  • BG Davis

    “E-bikers want to have their cake and eat it too.”
    And you?

  • BG Davis

    “If people want to use e-bikes, let them ride them in the street with the cars.”
    But they would be breaking the law and risking confiscation and fines.
    Why is it so hard for you to focus on the topic and the issue at hand?

  • BG Davis

    “I FEEL MORE UNSAFE w REGULAR BICYCLISTS RIDING LIKE JERKS
    than I do w most E-BIKERS. E-BIKES ARE BEING SINGLED OUT .. while,.. SKATEBOARDERS, AND INLINE SKATERS AND REGULAR BICYCLISTS SHOULD BE TICKETED LEFT AND RIGHT.”
    You are 100% correct, although the use of caps does detract from your message.

  • BG Davis

    “That is not the problem”
    Au contraire, that is precisely the problem. Why does this simple topic elicit so many twisted responses?

  • BG Davis

    “You sound like a whining spoiled brat,trying to push bike lanes and the bicycle agenda down everyones throat.”
    And you sound like an arrogant, ignorant bully, insulting people who have the intelligence to see that more and more cars is a formula for total gridlock, road rage incidents, and increased pedestrian fatalities.

  • BG Davis

    You are 100% correct, but please stop shouting.
    If you are visually impaired, you can compose in normal letters on another document (enlarged) and then copy and past.

  • BG Davis

    Heck no. You’re just a total @$$hole with a tiny mind and zero comprehension of reality.

  • BG Davis

    If he’s the only one who “gets it” doesn’t that tell you something?

  • Fred

    I see you made parole from state prison.

  • Fred

    Perp

  • Fred

    Too bad you weren’t whacked in vegas. Exterminating your kind would make America great again

  • jdb26354

    Agreed, this simple topic already has a solution–ebikes are not allowed on NYC streets or sidewalks. Bikes are allowed, whether for deliveries or not. Problem solved.

  • jdb26354

    You mean, “instead of trucks or motorcycles or bikes.” There already is a legal option for deliveries that does not involve use of motors of any kind–bikes.

  • jdb26354

    They are already breaking the law and risking confiscation and fines by using e-bikes in the city anywhere.

  • jdb26354

    I use citibikes, which shows no intent to disguise the use of illegal vehicles in NYC. Ebike users are engaged in a charade.

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