Shameful Scenes From de Blasio’s Crackdown on Delivery Workers Who Use Electric Bikes

As NYPD boasts about confiscating bikes from people trying to support themselves and their families, cyclists continue to face the real mortal threat on NYC streets.

NYPD collects e-bikes on First Avenue in Manhattan. Photo: @belleoflonglake/Twitter
NYPD collects e-bikes on First Avenue in Manhattan. Photo: @belleoflonglake/Twitter

As promised, Mayor de Blasio’s crackdown on electric bikes is in effect. NYPD precincts are boasting about confiscating bikes from delivery workers in the name of Vision Zero, though there is no evidence that e-bike riders pose a significant public safety threat.

Over the weekend, the 19th Precinct, on the Upper East Side, tweeted a photo of seized e-bikes:

This morning the 108th Precinct said officers were taking parked e-bikes and scooters from streets and sidewalks in Long Island City:

Midtown South bragged about “Vision Zero safety initiative” e-bike seizures, in a tweet that was subsequently deleted.

And last week, Transportation Alternatives Queens organizer and Biking Public Project co-founder Jessame Hannus posted the above photo of a 13th Precinct bike sting at 21st Street and First Avenue, where officers were collecting bikes as delivery workers rode by in the bike lane.

Announced last fall, de Blasio’s crackdown was triggered by Upper West Side resident Matthew Shefler, whose complaints about e-bike riders were amplified by WNYC. The city has produced no data to back up the mayor’s contention that training NYPD traffic enforcement resources on delivery workers — many of whom are immigrants, middle-aged or older, who need e-bikes to meet the physical demands of the job — will make streets safer.

To the contrary, available information suggests the e-bike threat is all but non-existent. In the latest installment of his essay on de Blasio’s war on delivery workers — read it here — Biking Public Project organizer Do Lee says that, according to NYPD, statistics on injuries determined to be caused by e-bike riders are lumped with other cyclist-caused crashes. Writes Lee:

In NYC, cyclist-caused injuries comprise only a tiny fraction of all traffic-related injuries — in 2016 for example, cyclists caused only about half of one percent (0.5% or 311 of 60,399) of all traffic injuries. Thus e-bike riders as a fraction of this number are simply not causing a high rate of injuries.

At a recent Community Board 7 meeting, the 20th Precinct, which covers the Upper West Side, said that out of 58 bike crashes in 2017, only one involved an e-bike rider, according to Village Voice reporter Christopher Robbins.

E-bikes are legal to own, but due to a quirk in state law are illegal to ride. Rather than ignore the law, as the city mostly did before, or work to get it changed, de Blasio has chosen to make an example of people who rely on e-bikes to support themselves and their families, hitting them with hefty fines, loss of personal property, and in some cases the possibility of deportation.

De Blasio insists he’s targeting business owners rather than delivery workers themselves, but that’s a fiction, since most workers are employed as independent contractors and use their own bikes.

Says Lee:

Jiang, a Chinese delivery worker, told us that delivery workers used to be primarily scared of being robbed. Now he says, “We get scared when we see the police — fear in the heart. Every ticket is $500. Receiving two tickets, one month’s work goes down the drain.”

While NYPD terrorizes working cyclists, people on bikes continue to face the real mortal threat on NYC streets. More city cyclists were killed by motorists in 2017 than in any year since 2007.

  • Elizabeth F

    Pedal assist e-bikes fit the needs of delivery workers, and are legal in NYC. It’s the obvious compromise. I think the mayor is beginning to understand that.

  • Elizabeth F

    This act has nothing to do with the legality of e-bikes on the streets of NYC or NYS. It’s legal to own a riding lawnmower too, but probably also illegal to drive it on public roads.

  • Elizabeth F

    The laws against class 2 e-bikes are not going to change any time soon. More practical would be for delivery workers to disable their throttles, thereby coming into compliance with existing laws. I did it to my e-bike; and believe me, it’s a VERY SMALL sacrifice.

    Meanwhile, we are working on getting pedal-assist e-bikes fully legalized throughout NY State.

  • Elizabeth F

    So far, I know of know cases of people who disabled their throttle and had their e-bike confiscated anyway. If and when that happens, they’d have a good chance to save $500 in front of the judge.

  • cjstephens

    I agree with you that this isn’t fair. However, it is real, and if we want to get the safe streets we deserve, we’re going to have to be persuasive. Excusing bad behavior and saying “look at them: they’re so much worse!” isn’t going to change enough minds. It certainly hasn’t in the past.

  • Elizabeth F

    > Would you like to volunteer to stand in front of an eBike going 20mph the wrong way in a bike lane?

    First of all, nobody should be standing in a bike lane. If New Yorkers would stop that behavior, life would be safer for everyone.

    Second… statistics show that pedestrians almost always survive crashes with automobiles going 20mph or less. Crashing with bikes going that speed are even more survivable.

    Third… e-bike riders are at far more risk of injury in a crash with a pedestrian than are automobile drivers. That further increases the motivation to not hit pedestrians.

    In any case… find me the data — or even anecdotes — of pedestrians seriously injured by an e-bike, while the pedestrian was obeying the law (i.e. not crossing on a “Don’t Walk”, not stepping into a bike lane while looking the other way, etc). I’ve seen absolutely zero such cases.

    > Too many voters were fed up with the bad behavior of a large > group of cyclists. Every cyclist? No. Most cyclists? Not even > close

    As I said before… people tend to apply this logic more to the “other” than to vehicles they can imagine themselves using. Hence, the excessively leniant attitude New Yorkers have toward the routine automobile carnage on our streets every day. It only takes bad cyclist to get some community board member upset; meanwhile, the streets are full of thousands of bad drivers and nobody does a thing. There is no way that every cyclist (or driver or pedestrian) will EVER conform to your, or my, or anyone else’s idea of what “good cyclist” behavior should be.

  • cjstephens

    Elsewhere in this thread it has been pointed out that two New Yorkers were killed by (non-e) bikes last year. Are you seriously trying to argue that eBikes are so different from regular bikes that someone riding an eBike can’t cause a fatal injury?

  • Elizabeth F

    I’m not excusing bad behavior. I’m just pointing out that nobody can ever “make” the 100,000 cyclists in NYC behave as whoever on CB 17 would like them all to. Cyclists are an incredibly varied lot. Some are young, foolish and in a hurry. Some are old and cautious. Some are single, some are parents. Some are rich, some are poor, they come from all different backgrounds, ethnic groups and nationalities. And cyclists cycle for all different reasons — for work, for pleasure, for getting to work. We cannot accept the idea that all these cyclists NEED to please every New Yorker who doesn’t cycle before progress can be made. Because that will never happen.

    And BTW… I routinely run into motorists and pedestrians who have no idea of how bike law works, and yet believe they can lecture me on their (ignorant) understanding of it.

    The only practical thing is to point out the impossibility and hypocrisy of these demands, continue to support at least a minimum of law and order in the streets for everyone, and keep working on better infrastructure.

  • Elizabeth F

    Actually, I pointed that out; and the term is “manual bike.” And it wasn’t the past year. There were 3 in 204, and none since then. Two of those 3 in 2014 were in Central Park.

    http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/nycdot-pedestrian-fatalities-by-bike-motor-vehicle.pdf

    August 3, 2014:
    ============

    “On August 3rd, again during the full daylight of a summer afternoon, a seventeen-year-old bicyclist swerved into the running lane, to avoid a pedicab, and struck a seventy-five-year-old teacher who was training for the New York Marathon. That man, Irving Schachter, died two days later.”

    https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/bicycle-crash-kills-another-pedestrian-central-park

    September, 2014
    =============

    One of the incidents involved a recreational cyclist traveling about 30mph through Central Park, trying to go as fast as possible, and using aero bars. That crash prompted a number of changes, for better or for worse: (1) Central Park speed limit lowered from 25mp to 20mph, (2) bicycles prohibited from automobile lanes in Central Park, (3) talk of banning aero bars (I don’t know if this actually happened), and (4) of course, continued enforcement of red lights in Central Park, even when there are no cars around. It also prompted discussion of the Strava app, and the possibility that it was encouraging recreational cyclists to disregard safety in search of personal glory on Strava segments.

    I’m not easily finding the circumstances of the first 2014 cyclist-pedestrian death. But remember that that’s still about 1% as many pedestrians as were killed by cars in NYC in 2014.

    > Are you seriously trying to argue that eBikes are so different from regular bikes

    I think it should be clear that someone riding 20mph on an upright e-bike is less likely to cause fatal injury than someone riding 30mph, staring down at the pavement with aero bars. The data here show that recreational cyclists are more dangerous than delivery cyclists. That’s been my experience too. I’ve had two collisions with recreational cyclists while crossing the street (with a “walk” signal); one of them came back to beat me up as well. I’ve had multiple bad encounters, some of them dangerous, with recreational “Freds” along the Hudson River, people who take it personally if you ever pass them. I’ve never had a problem with a delivery cyclists, although I have seen them (and CitiBikers) from time to time going the wrong way in a bike lane.

    > that someone riding an eBike can’t cause a fatal injury?

    I’m sure it’s possible somehow. I said less likely. As in, FAR LESS LIKELY.

  • MAGA

    Just thought I’d mention that most 50cc scooters sold today top out at about 40 mph, not 20

  • Joe R.

    Once this particular crackdown passes, the victims in all of this would be well advised to minimise their chances of being caught by riding according to the rules of the road.

    Right, so the police will ticket these cyclists anyway for something they didn’t do just to reach their quotas. How many people here have mentioned getting red light tickets when they actually had the green? Quite a few over the years if I recall. Even more have been ticketed for non-offenses like riding outside the bike lane or not wearing a helmet. True those tickets are usually dismissed, but here the system is the punishment. You’re still missing a day or more of work/school to fight the ticket.

    What has to change is the idea that cyclists are the other. That’s why we’re continuing to be marginalized and disproportionately punished for any illegal behavior, no matter how harmless that behavior actually is. Right now the only way I see of doing that is to shut up all these complainers, by force if necessary. Heck, you’re the one always talking about the revolution. How about we start now?

  • Joe R.

    So you’re basically punishing the entire city because of the complaints of a very small (in terms of percentage) group of people? This is yet another example of rich, white people with nothing to do and no real problems complaining about the only thing preventing their lives from being perfect. Fuck them. Seriously, let them all jump off one of the bridges. I’m tired of a elite group of Manhattanites dictating what we can and can’t do in this city. First we had the sidewalk cycling ban in the 1990s, which granted may have made some sense in the densest parts of Manhattan, but not in the outer boroughs where mostly empty sidewalks are often the only places less experienced cyclists feel safe riding. Then we started having more and more enforcement of traffic laws against cyclists even though these laws were hardly or never enforced in the 75 years prior to that. You also have other classic cases of stupidity not related to bikes, like locking up spray paint, prohibiting people in parks after a certain time, drinking in public (even on your own stoop), plus our lovely firearms laws which violate the 2nd amendment.

    Now we’re after e-bikes because they’re supposedly a hazard? Compared to what? Pigeon shit? When there’s citiwide complaints against something and that something is actually harmful, then make a law against it. If not, just to learn to deal with it like generations before have. Sure, I’ll even admit delivery cyclists, whether on regular or e-bikes, are an annoyance when I’m walking. But so are motor vehicles and pedestrians when I’m riding. Living in close proximity with lots of other people means you’ll be subjected daily to things you find annoying. If these people want to live in a sterile environment where nothing annoys them move to the suburbs. Leave the rest of us alone.

  • Joe R.

    On the crash statistics, I once figured that the speed categories for bikes (or e-bikes) should be roughly double that for automobiles. The likelihood of death is related to the change in momentum a pedestrian suffers as a result of a collision. In the case of an automobile, the pedestrian suffers almost all of the change in momentum. If the pedestrian is hit by a cyclist of roughly the same mass, both the cyclist and pedestrian have a roughly equal change in momentum. A pedestrian hit by a car going 20 mph will more or less be accelerated to 20 mph in the direction the car was traveling. The car would only suffer a slight deceleration of at most maybe 2 mph, but more often less than 1 mph). A pedestrian hit by a cyclist going 20 mph will be pushed to about 10 mph in the direction the bike was traveling. The bike would be slowed from 20 to about 10 mph. Both would suffer about the same acceleration. The statistics tell us a pedestrian can almost always survive a change in momentum of 20 mph or less. For a cyclist to inflict this on a pedestrian, they would need to be traveling about 40 mph (maybe a few mph less if the bike or cyclist is heavy or the pedestrian is light).

    What all that means in a nutshell is nearly all pedestrians would survive being hit by a bike going about 35 to 40 mph. That’s a speed only strong cyclists can reach, and then usually only on downgrades. This pretty much makes any pedestrian fatality caused by a cyclist more a freak thing where they fall and hit their head. I’d be surprised if there were any examples at all of a pedestrian killed by blunt force trauma due to a bicycle.

    Or put even more succinctly, a 20 mph e-bike poses roughly the same danger to a pedestrian as a car going 10 to 12 mph. That’s close to zero chance of death, very little chance of serious injury.

  • qrt145

    Not last year. “In the last few years”. I don’t remember the exact dates but I remember that I’ve been reading Streetsblog for about eight years and those are the only two cases that have been reported. There were one or two others that appeared on some statistical table but for which I could find no reports. Before those two that were reported, the last known case was from 2009. So the average rate is maybe 0.5 per year over the last decade.

  • Simon Phearson

    I’ve unfortunately learned, at too much expense of effort and time, that you are not susceptible to reasoned argument. You equivocate, shift goalposts, and repeat assertions ad nauseam without evidence or rational support. What’s more, you do so at such length that you try even the patience of those who still think you might actually have something worth saying.

    No, I’ve learned my lesson. The only reason I am bothering to respond to you here is to highlight your ridiculous pedantry and inappropriate sophistry.

  • Harry Liang

    A problem though is the police don’t bother to see if bikes have throttles or not. They took away every motorized bicycle on the upper east side when it’s crackdown time. The police seem confused about what constitutes as pedal assist and it’s easier to take everyone’s bikes and have them resolve it in court. The police know this is a waste of time and electric bikes will be right back on the streets the moment they stop confiscating. It’s just a publicity stunt so De Blasio can say to rich hedge fund guys like Matt Sheffler that they are doing something for wealthy residents who complain about the menacing delivery guys trying to make a living.

  • Harry Liang

    It actually takes about 2-3 months to get your bike back. I had mine taken away and that’s how long it takes to go through the court system and retrieve your bike back.

  • To be honest , I’ve had Chinese food delivery men buzz by a little too close while I was riding a Citi Bike. But that’s their way of riding, it has nothing to do with the bikes themselves. The real issue is the lack of lights on those bikes.
    I live on Long Island and I’ve been building what was called “Electric Mopeds” since 1986. I can’t do anything right now, New York is the only place that is creating a problem with E-Bikes.

  • The accustations of equivocation and goal-post-shifting are products of your own fevered imagination. Throughout these exchanges I have expressed a consistent viewpoint; and I have argued that position by means of sound reasoning.

    If you really think that the observation that the delivery workers’ bad riding behaviour attracted this unwanted attention constitutes an excusing of oppressive police practices and of racist/classist societal prejudices, then this suggests a congenital inability to process nuance and complexity. Pity, that; as the real world has the annoying habit of bringing forth situations that are quite complex indeed.

    Or perhaps you are just pining for the fjords.

  • Elizabeth F

    Thank you for the information; I had been told previously it took 3 days.

    What did you do in the meantime?

    I believe we should build a community of e-bike users who are committed to riding ONLY legal pedal-assist e-bikes. If one of us has our bike confiscated, we should have access to community-provided legal help in court, as well as a loaner e-bike in the meantime.

  • Elizabeth F

    I don’t think NYPD will ever be perfect. But by failing to make a mass concerted effort to disable throttles, we have missed an opportunity to greatly improve the situation.

    Suppose we have a big publicity campaign to disable throttles using yellow duct tape. Part of that campaign would be to let the Mayor and NYPD know we are doing this — both to increase goodwill with the City, and also to help NYPD understand what we are doing, and that they should not confiscated properly modified Arrow e-bikes. That campaign would probably greatly decrease the chances that clueless NYPD precincts will confiscate e-bikes they shouldn’t.

    Couple that with community-supported legal assistance and loaner e-bikes. That way, we can make sure that those of us who have properly disabled our throttles to comply with the law — but still have our bikes confiscated anyway — that we will have a way to get back on the road quickly and keep doing what we need to do, even if it takes 3 months to get our own e-bike back.

    In the meantime, it would provide an opportunity for MUCH better press. Instead of writing stories of “The Mayor is hurting delivery workers by enforcing NYC law,” we will see stories along the lines of “NYPD illegally confiscated pedal-assist e-bikes from delivery workers who are working with the City and doing everything they can to stay legal.” Now, the moral high ground will be firmly on our side, instead of the City’s. NYPD won’t stand long for this kind of bad press, and they will change their ways.

    If we do all this — I assure you, NYPD will learn quickly what yellow duct tape means on a throttle, and they will cut the harassment.

    Your thoughts? Txt me if you’re interested in putting this together: 617-308-0436

  • Elizabeth F

    Harry… I think you are spot-on — that e-bikes are useful because of their flexibility, not top speed.

    A few more comments: (1) I rely on my Arrow e-bike for commuting, I’m not a commercial cyclist. (2) The City already has a licensing system for commercial cyclists that is separate from commuter cyclists.

  • Simon Phearson

    I’m not going to bother rehearsing your several logical errors, because you’ve consistently demonstrated the failure to appreciate that kind of careful correction and have, instead, gone on to continue repeating yourself in whatever forums still tolerate your participation. I’m just saying, save it for some post that’s not explicitly about the victimization of a disfranchised group.

  • AMH

    Minus the lost wages, of course.

  • Harry Liang

    I wasn’t able to ride during the time I had my bike confiscated so I didn’t ride at all. They will return your bike only after you go through the court date and the process of getting 3 different signatures at 3 different locations which total takes up 2 days. 1 for court and the other to run around getting what they consider “evidence” released. I think the delivery guys just buy new bikes because it’s not even worth the time.

  • Elizabeth F

    > I think the delivery guys just buy new bikes because it’s not even worth the time.

    I’m beginning to believe that the bike shops — which continue to sell illegal e-bikes in spite of $1000/bike fines — are a more serious problem than has been discussed before. If they MAKE money every time someone gets their e-bike confiscated, what incentive do they have to comply with the law and sell only pedal-assist e-bikes?

    The City periodically sends out inspectors to fine e-bike shops $1000 per illegal e-bike they have in their store. This is clearly not working, since the stores just see that as the cost of doing business. Delivery workers buy whatever is available, and use it. If the City could shut down these operations (or get them to convert to legal pedal-assist e-bikes), then delivery workers would stop buying illegal e-bikes and start buying legal e-bikes instead. And then NYPD would not need to hold “crackdowns” because the streets would be full of only legal pedal-assist e-bikes.

    So… maybe the City should redirect its efforts away from delivery workers (or “restaurants”), and toward e-bike shops instead.

  • Harry Liang

    This does sound like a reasonable compromise, I believe we would need feedback from NYPD. Although I wonder if they will feel the need to recant on pedal assist if everyone just duct tapes their throttles.

  • Elizabeth F

    > I wonder if they will feel the need to recant on pedal assist if everyone just duct tapes their throttles.

    NYPD doesn’t make the law; and the law is that pedal-assist is legal, throttles are illegal. There’s nothing here that NYPD can recant.

    Feedback from NYPD would involve, what kind of disabling would make it easiest for them to identify accurately in the field? And from the courts, we would need feedback on what kind of disabling would pass muster in court. All this would be possible if we all work together.

    In theory, NYC could pass a new law outlawing pedal-assist e-bikes a well. But that is not likely. An increasing number of New Yorkers are buying pedal assist e-bikes for purposes other than delivery. Many of them have political power (i.e. voting status) and would put up a fight on any attempt to ban pedal-assist; so would the nascent e-bike industry in NYC. There’s a lot of support for e-bikes in theory — they take load off the subway, they’re clean, they help with congestion, etc. People, most of whom have no understanding of the technology, just seem to believe that pedal-assist e-bikes are “safer”, “slower” or more “bike-like” than ones with throttles. And they believe, rightly or wrongly, the delivery industry is “out of control.”

    There is a lot of work going on right now to legalize and standardize pedal assist e-bikes statewide. There’s a good chance that will happen this year, and many NYC officials seem to be on board with the idea — as long as it is pedal-assist ONLY. The past 3 years of experience show that there is NO political chance that class 2 (throttle) e-bikes will be legalized in NYC.

    I think it’s useful to compare the experiences with E-bikes of China vs. Europe. China has had a fairly unregulated e-bike market, with all sorts of negative consequences. Lead-acid batters have caused a real disposal problem, many of the e-bikes are substandard quality and possibly dangerous, and many don’t conform to national standards (i.e. top speed), disregard for traffic law is rampant, and hundreds of thousands of crashes involve e-bikes. Rightly or wrongly, the government blames those crashes ON the e-bikes. Gradually, Chinese cities have simply banned e-bikes from their streets, even though they are used by hundreds of millions of people. Overall, there’s a lot of contention over the issue.

    In Europe, e-bikes have come in later and more gradually. They are in general of higher quality (and more expensive), they don’t use lead-acid batteries, and the Europeans seem to have better regard for their traffic laws. They are slower, better regulated and lack throttles. There is a much more positive attitude toward e-bikes in Europe, where they continue to grow and take their place within the transportation infrastructure.

    We want our e-bike future to look like Europe, not China.

  • cjstephens

    OK, I’ll modify what I wrote before. The biggest obstacles to getting more bike infrastructure are reckless behavior from cyclists… and rants like yours. What you see as “rich white people with nothing to do and no real problems complaining about the only thing preventing their lives from being perfect” is what I see as vulnerable people fighting for survival. I’m fit enough to jump out of the way of a delivery guy riding on the sidewalk or going the wrong way down the street, but my elderly neighbors aren’t. If the only thing you’re strong enough to do is walk to the grocery store and back, you don’t want to spend that time dodging scofflaw delivery guys. That’s not exercising privilege. That’s trying to stay alive. The people who are complaining about this are the elderly and the frail who want and need the government to protect them. And you think they should all go jump off a bridge? Or move to the suburbs (where they would be trapped when they are too old to drive)? No. I want this to be a liveable city with safe streets. Asking the delivery guys to obey a few simple laws (that the vast majority of cyclists have no problem doing) isn’t asking too much.

  • cjstephens

    Three points: you keep citing the small number of deaths that cyclists cause, and we’re all glad the number is so low. However, I think you’re overlooking non-fatal collisions and the injuries they cause. If you’re elderly and get knocked over by a cyclist, maybe you’re not killed on impact, but you may never recover from the broken hip the collision caused.

    While I’m not doubting your personal experience with reckless cyclists, mine is the exact opposite. Sure, there are rude Freds out there, especially on more recreationally oriented paths (Central Park, Hudson River Greenway). However, I see bad behavior much more frequently from delivery cyclists, especially when they ride the wrong way in traffic.

    Finally, I still don’t see how you can say an eBike is less likely to cause an injury than a “manual” bike. That just makes no sense.

  • cjstephens

    Elizabeth F in this thread seems to keep saying that eBikes are much less likely to cause a fatality than other bikes, and I don’t get how she reaches that conclusion. I would also question how many non-fatal collisions were caused by eBikes.

  • qrt145

    I think Elizabeth F’s argument in short is that users of ebikes are less likely to crash than sports cyclists due to the geometry of the bike and because of different riding style/motivation (i.e. transportation vs training/racing).

    Sounds possible to me, but I’d say there’s no real evidence either for or against this hypothesis. The fact that the last two reported fatal crashes were in Central Park doesn’t say much because we are talking about such tiny numbers. In fact, the previous fatal crash, in 2009, did involve a delivery cyclist going the wrong way in a midtown street, so that makes 2 for “sport” to 1 for “delivery” out of the last 3. I wouldn’t reach any conclusions.

    Non-fatal collisions are of course much more frequent, but I’ve never seen any statistics that distinguish between ebikes and bikes, not to mention that nonfatal bike crash statistics are notoriously unreliable. (If anyone can point me to such statistics I’ll be grateful!)

  • cjstephens

    I agree that the data available is too thin to draw big conclusions. Wasn’t there at least one more death recently? If I recall correctly a woman was killed on First Avenue in the 80s (near where I live) when she exited a cab without looking on the newly installed bike lane, where a cyclist struck her and absconded?

  • qrt145
  • Joe R.

    Who says they need to jump out of the way of delivery people riding on sidewalks? That’s patently bullshit. I’ve had to jump out of the way of sidewalk cyclists exactly once, and it was some teenager horsing around, not a delivery person. In fact, I find older children, who are still legally allowed to ride on sidewalks, to be the most annoying and dangerous cyclists. They’re strong enough to go pretty fast, and many have no judgement or consideration.

    I’ll reiterate that cyclists should be allowed to ride on sidewalks, but with the caveat that they defer to pedestrians. If a pedestrian needs to jump out of their way, they’re doing it wrong. I’m fine going after any cyclist, delivery person or not, who bullies pedestrians out of their way on sidewalks.

    My comment about rich white people with nothing to do and no real problems has everything to do with this. There are delivery cyclists in all of NYC. It’s only in the wealthier neighborhoods where you hear lots of complaints about them (and about cyclists in general). I still remember my brief time as a bike messenger in Manhattan in 1981. Prior to that I rode all around Queens and maybe a handful of times had someone make a nasty comment about my mode of travel. When riding in Manhattan it was a daily occurrence . My favorite was a woman who said “Ewwww! A bicycle!” as if she just saw a cockroach. This is typical rich people attitude. They hate the sight of bicycles because they’re so, you know, proletariat. Can’t have them defacing their neighborhoods.

    This isn’t about protecting the elderly like you’re making it out to be. WE have elderly all over the city. For most of them delivery cyclists ranks pretty far down on the list of things they complain about. Part of livable streets is letting cyclists ride without constantly being harassed by the police for BS offenses which harm nobody. That used to be possible until maybe the early 1990s. And then all of a sudden bicycles got on the NYPD’s radar.

  • cjstephens

    You may never have needed to jump out of the way of a delivery guy on the sidewalk, but I have. It’s a real thing and happens all the time in my neighborhood. Luckily my reflexes are still pretty good. In twenty years time? Maybe not. Dismissing the real danger other people experience is pretty callous and isn’t going to win you any friends.

    Are there circumstances where it would be safe for cyclists to ride on the sidewalk? Of course. In DC, the law used to be that it was legal everywhere except in the well-defined central business district. In most of Manhattan, though, development is just too dense to allow this to be done safely. Could the city re-write the law to allow sidewalk cycling in some areas? Perhaps, but I wouldn’t hold my breath, and enforcement would be a nightmare because too many jerks would abuse it. File this under “this is why we can’t have nice things.”

    And please don’t expect any sympathy from me with your attitude towards “rich” people. So thirty years ago someone who you thought was rich (was she wearing a diamond tiara and furs?) was mean to you. And now you think all “rich” people must be mean and selfish and wrong about everything? Grow up. Rich people don’t hate bicycles – just look at how the demographics skew on CitiBike usage. Or check out the price tags of the carbon fiber peloton in Central Park on the weekends.

    Are people who get food delivered to blame for this mess? Maybe (and I’m not in that group: I know how to cook for myself, thank you very much). However, I have my doubts that the customers are going to make economic choices based on the marginal difference in delivery time between a law abiding delivery guy and a scofflaw. Example: there are excellent bike lanes on both First and Second Avenues. Countless delivery guys go the wrong direction in these one-way bike lanes, even though there is a great bike lane that goes in the right direction one block away. Time savings of, what, two minutes? Is the customer waiting for delivery going to notice? Or is the delivery guy just cutting corners in order to jam in more deliveries in a shift? Reckless driving by cabbies is not OK, so why is reckless riding by delivery guys acceptable?

  • cjstephens

    Thanks for looking this up, and I’m glad she wasn’t killed. However, the severity of her injuries underlines my point that we should be considering data beyond just fatalities.

  • Joe R.

    As I said, I don’t condone the worst kinds of behavior by any cyclist. Bullying pedestrians out of the way, whether on sidewalks or crosswalks, is not acceptable behavior. If the NYPD only actually ticketed truly reckless, dangerous cycling behavior, they would have my full support. However, they don’t do that. They go after the low-hanging fruit. And this crackdown is even worse. They’re confiscating the bikes even if the rider isn’t breaking any traffic laws because NYS is too stupid or too stubborn to do what the other 49 states have done. This is a case where I wish federal law would supersede local law.

    I have mixed feelings about wrong way riding. Like sidewalk cycling, it can be unsafe or not, depending upon the rider. I personally rarely ride the wrong way. If I do, it’s always for a very short distance to avoid a much more circuitous route. And by the way, going one block over to avoid wrong way riding adds a heck of a lot more than two minutes. You’re traveling two long blocks extra total. At 10 mph that’s about 2.5 minutes just for the actual ride time. Add a few minutes if you happen to get stuck at red lights when you hit the avenue. Of course, most cyclists won’t bother waiting, particular if they’re turning right, but since you’re saying delivery people should obey laws we’ll assume they do wait. So that’s 3 or 4 minutes average every time they need to avoid wrong way riding. Now consider they always chain deliveries to save time. The first person in the chain might only get his/her food a few minutes late. Fine, no big deal, most people couldn’t care less. But if you’re doing 5 or 6 deliveries, by the time the last person in the chain is reached you could be talking 15 or 20 minutes extra. That’s a good way to NOT get a tip. In fact, it’s a good way to lose a customer altogether. The real fix here is to appropriate another car lane, or a parking lane, on the avenues and major cross streets so all the bike lanes are legal two-way. Allow wrong way riding for cyclists on the minor cross streets. That fixes the wrong way problem. Incidentally, needing to go the wrong way also accounts for quite a bit of sidewalk riding as the only way to safety go against traffic is often on the sidewalk. So you largely solve that problem as well. I’m personally not a big fan of sidewalk cycling anyway, but we have to accept the reality that this is where lots of people choose to ride if they consider the street too dangerous. Make safe places to cycle and you mostly end sidewalk cycling.

    And please don’t expect any sympathy from me with your attitude towards “rich” people. So thirty years ago someone who you thought was rich (was she wearing a diamond tiara and furs?) was mean to you. And now you think all “rich” people must be mean and selfish and wrong about everything?

    No, my opinion is based on a lot more than that. Read Larry Littlefield’s posts on generation greed for a lot of the reasons why. The rich were actually a lot more likable 30 years ago. They were more apt to mix with commoners. They didn’t complain as much about paying taxes to support public institutions. Many gave generously later in life, leaving behind a great legacy. Contrast this to a crude, selfish vulgarian like our current President. Or to the hordes of rich with petty complaints. I don’t doubt some percentage of the complainers really did have to jump for their lives because of some delivery cyclist bearing down on them. However, quite a few of those anecdotes are likely also bullshit by people who’ve hated cyclists for most of their lives. That’s why we should use statistics, NOT complaints, to determine enforcement priorities. If there was a rash of deaths and serious injuries from delivery cyclists, then I’ll be the first person to advocate a crackdown. The statistics tell us otherwise.

    Reckless driving by cabbies is not OK, so why is reckless riding by delivery guys acceptable?

    So long as you’re talking about truly reckless behavior, and not just behavior that is illegal but safe, like slow rolling red lights, neither is acceptable. The difference here though is reckless cab driving kills lots of people. I have yet to hear of anyone getting killed by a delivery cyclist on an e-bike.

  • cjstephens

    We agree on a lot of things – the NYPD’s enforcement priorities, for a start – but some of what you say still rankles. You’re still beating up on the elderly for being elderly, saying that they’re essentially hallucinating the times when they have found reckless cycling to be a threat to their personal safety. That’s not OK; someday you and some of the people you love will be old and frail, and you will probably change your tune on this one.

    And have the rich gotten worse lately? That’s a little too off topic to go into here, but I’ll remind you that Spy Magazine coined the term “stubby fingered vulgarian” for a certain local real estate developer – 30 years ago. But to keep this on reactions to cyclists’s behavior, I would also remind you that there are plenty of Streetsblog articles about activists in poor neighborhoods fighting cyclists, too. “Bike lanes in our neighborhood? Hell no! Those gentrifying cyclists are trying to drive us out of our homes!” As cyclists, we can’t catch a break, so we need to give our opponents as few reasons as possible to fight our legal, safe, environmentally friendly mode of transportation. Is it fair that we get held to a higher standard? Of course not, but it’s the reality we live in.

  • Joe R.

    I’m just saying we should only use statistics when we decide enforcement priorities. A complaint is an anecdote. Regardless of whether or not the person has issues which prevent them from seeing reality as it is, we must take all complaints with a grain of salt. If the statistics bear out these complaints as a threat to public safety, then they might merit new laws or enforcement. If not, well then it’s incumbent on the police to tell the complainers we’re sorry, but you’re asking us to devote expensive police resources in return for little or no gain in public safety.

    The protests against bike lanes are just another facet to taking complainers at face value. In fact, one problem with society these days is taking chronic complainers seriously, even when the facts don’t bear out their complaints. Time and again we’ve heard the nonsense about how bike lanes cause traffic congestion, endanger people, hurt businesses, gentrify neighborhoods, and so forth. Time and again when bike lanes go in none of these things are true. And yet the people who say them are still given a seat at the table. Why? It’s counterproductive. It needlessly delays, waters down, or stops projects. It’s often counter to the will of the majority, as when a handful of cranks on a community board bitching about lost parking can stop an important safety improvement most of the people want. Bottom line, at some point we have to go back to learning to ignore people when the facts don’t bear them out. Maybe hear them out if this is the first time they complain about something. If their complaints don’t mesh with reality, start ignoring them after the second or third time.

    And yes, the rich have gotten a lot worse in terms of any humanity towards those not so fortunate. They manipulate the system to send more wealth to themselves while doing absolutely nothing to deserve it. I have the utmost respect for any person who got wealthy by hard work and implementing good ideas to provide products or services which made people’s lives better. That’s the old school rich. I have no respect for people who get rich by manipulating commodities, flipping houses, exploiting workers, or otherwise making money but not providing anything of benefit to society in return. Indeed, a lot of these schemes make things worse off for the common person. Flipping houses for example only benefits the people doing it. It makes housing prices higher for everyone else by artificially inflating demand. Ditto for doing the same with other commodities. Lowering taxes on the wealthy starves public services but fails to create jobs or grow the economy. Sorry about the rant, but it really runs me the wrong way when people like this who already have taken so much from us won’t even let us ride our bikes.

  • Joe R.

    Do we even have any good data on the injuries cyclists cause? In theory what you say might make sense but we need the data to support it. Moreover, even if such data exists once again we still need to prioritize enforcement to go after what is statistically more dangerous. If we find e-bikes injure 1% as many people as motor vehicles then this makes them a low enforcement priority. The old adage here is be careful what you wish for. E-bikes might not be as dangerous as many complainers think they are once the data is out.

    Also worth a mention is if we take the steps needed to reduce deaths/injuries from motor vehicles, then the e-bike problems, such as they are, would likely solve themselves. I’ve said repeatedly that traffic volumes are the true cause of traffic violence. We need to drastically reduce the volume of motor vehicles in this city. Once we do that, there’s more space for bikes, far less need for things like traffic signals. A lot of bad cyclist behavior in this city is due to fighting with pedestrians over the scraps left over from devoting most street space to motor vehicles. If delivery cyclists could legally ride quickly either way on most streets via bidirectional bike lanes, they would have no reason to ride on sidewalks. Indeed, riding on sidewalks would actually slow them down. If there were far fewer traffic lights, there might be less incentive to ignore the occasional red light which was really needed for safety. I think a large part of the problem here is our street design virtually encourages bad behavior from all users—pedestrians, cyclists, and motor vehicles.

  • AS A

    Plenty of people including children have been put in harm’s way for years by those things. I was hit from behind. People have been complaining for years. This is a dishonest article.

  • Andrew

    How does the number of severe injuries caused by cyclists compare to the number of severe injuries caused by motorists?

    Based on your answer to that question, if the goal is to reduce the number of severe injuries, should we focus our attention heavily on cyclists, or should we instead put the bulk of our energy on reducing the damage caused by errant motorists?

    Going a step further, if we’re going to confiscate e-bikes because of the danger they pose, shouldn’t we also confiscate automobiles if the numbers indicate that they pose an even greater danger? Does that seem like a reasonable policy to you?

  • Andrew

    Today alone I was put in harm’s way by multiple cars and trucks. Should the city start confiscating all cars and trucks?

  • cjstephens

    I expect we all agree that enforcement against reckless drivers should take precedence over reckless cyclists.

    And the law (and the cops) do make a distinction between vehicles (human powered and engine powered) that can be operated safely and those that cannot. Why is this so surprising to you?

  • Andrew

    Which vehicles are you claiming cannot be safely operated?

  • cjstephens

    We ban trucks over a certain length from City streets (enforcement is lousy, alas). There are also a number of gas powered motorbikes that are not street legal and are regularly confiscated by the cops.

  • Andrew

    Enforcement of oversized trucks is next to nonexistent. The law may as well not exist.

    E-bikes are illegal not because they’re dangerous but because the law requires them to be registered but the DMV provides no mechanism by which to register them. It’s purely a technicality.

    The mayor could have instructed the police to enforce the law against oversized trucks, which are illegal because they pose a real danger; instead he instructed the police to confiscate e-bikes, which are illegal due to a technicality in state law.

  • cjstephens

    If you’re so sure it’s just “a technicality”, then convince your electeds to change the law. You would be saving more lives, however, if you lobbied them to step up enforcement against cars, right?

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