Confronted with Facts, de Blasio Still Insists E-Bikes are Dangerous
12:01 AM EDT on April 19, 2019
Mayor de Blasio dismissed new evidence of the overall safety of e-bikes on Thursday, resorting to his usual anecdote-based fear-mongering about the low-paid delivery workers who are the subject of the NYPD's ongoing crackdown.
The mayor’s same-old remarks — which have drawn ire from e-bike and delivery worker advocates since he launched his offensive against the illegal vehicles in 2017 — comes after Streetsblog reported that e-bikes account for mere hundredths of one percent of all the 45,775 injury-causing collisions in 2018. And of the 11,115 pedestrians who were injured in 2018, just nine of them were struck and hurt by an e-bike rider, the statistics show. That's .08 of a percent.
But those numbers didn't persuade the mayor that his crackdown on delivery workers is arbitrary and capricious.
“There’s plenty of evidence of them being used in a manner that’s reckless, that doesn’t conform to the way all the other types of transportation work," the mayor said in an expansive answer during an unrelated transportation press conference on Thursday (full text below). "This has been, to me, the mode of transportation where we’ve seen a lot of recklessness, a lot of going the wrong way down the street, a lot of speed at levels they shouldn’t be for very closely packed areas – it’s a problem. I’m just not going to stop saying I think it’s a safety problem, and a lot of my constituents think it’s a safety problem."
The second-term mayor, who is mulling a run for president, took a page out of the current president's playbook, when he chose to believe his own perception about safety rather than the facts.
"With e-bikes, you see e-bikes go up on the sidewalk ... but as a part of their practice, and going the wrong way on the street as part of their practice. I’ve seen it, plenty of times, it’s been reported to me by lots of my constituents," said de Blasio. "You don’t see cars drive on the sidewalk a whole lot, or go the wrong way down the street a whole lot as a matter of course, some do it and they caught a lot of the time, or God forbid there’s an accident."
Fact check: cars do this too, do it more, and actually kill people when they do. Plus, de Blasio's own cops consistently park on the sidewalk — all the time — and get away with it. The mayor's comment about never seeing cars on sidewalks was so awkward given his own placard abuse crisis that it quickly earned its own hashtag: #CarsOnSidewalks.
The mayor has never offered up any stats or figures to justify his aggressive police enforcement on e-bikes, which are used by mostly poor immigrant, delivery workers — and now it's clear why, thanks to the Streetsblog report, which was based on analysis of the city's own crash data by Biking Public Project organizer Do Lee and Legal Aid Society Research and Data Quality Analyst Alex Rhodd.
Continuing to paint e-bike riders as a threat to the city is dangerous, and does more damage to the low-paid workers than it does to pedestrians, said Lee, following the mayor's remarks.
"The real problem is a mayor who continues to perpetuate false and deplorable characterizations of immigrant delivery workers on e-bikes as a safety 'problem,'" he said. "As a result, immigrant delivery workers continue to suffer under the Mayor's punitive e-bike police crackdown that saves zero lives, but ruins many immigrant lives."
Here was the full exchange with Streetsblog:
Question: Mr. Mayor, Streetsblog reported today that of the 11,000 pedestrians reported as injured on streets last year by the NYPD, only nine were hit by e-bike riders. Does that challenge, contradict, or give pause to your view that the e-bikes are unsafe or a safety concern?
I understand why, you know I appreciate those facts, and I understand why people would say “hey, you know, this is not as important as some other things” but I would simply say we’ve got a class of bicycles that go, or e-bikes I should say, that go way too fast, where there’s plenty of evidence of them being used in a manner that’s reckless, that doesn’t conform to the way all the other types of transportation work. In other words, a car, a truck, a motorcycle, they’re on the street, they follow all the traffic rules, if they don’t it’s very clear what happens, you know, a bicycle in a bike lane – this has been, to me, the mode of transportation where we’ve seen a lot of recklessness, a lot of going the wrong way down the street, a lot of speed at levels they shouldn’t be for very closely packed areas – it’s a problem. Now, do I think it’s a unresolvable problem? No, I think we can resolve it. I think if we can work with our colleagues in Albany, one of the things I find promising is putting some physical speed limitation technology into the e-bikes, that can be a game-changer, because the pedal-assist bikes, to me, are not the problem – it’s the ones that go faster. So I think there is a pathway, and I think we can find a way to help people who have the current bikes to convert them to something that’s safer, but I’m just – I’ve been asked a question, I appreciate the question, but I’m just not going to stop saying I think it’s a safety problem, and a lot of my constituents think it’s a safety problem.
Question: But doesn’t the data seem to indicate that that concern is more about perception than reality?
I – look, I think it is not perception to say that we know these bikes are being used differently than everything else around them. They go – they are faster than an average bike, obviously, and they don’t conform the way, you know, a car, a truck, a motorcycle would to traffic rules, it’s just a known fact. You don’t tend to see motorcycles going the wrong way on a street, or sometimes going on the sidewalk. You do with e-bikes. I mean it’s just a different reality, and I think it’s a problematic reality.
After several other questions, the exchange over e-bikes continued:
Question: Back to the question of e-bikes. I mean, don’t you see cars going way too fast on streets, or cars mounting the curbs, crashing into storefronts—
Oh whoa. Cars mounting – wait, wait my friend. Cars mounting the curb, crashing into storefronts – would you just let me finish, you’re very into this question. That is a horrible and aberrant situation. I am saying with e-bikes, you see e-bikes go up on the sidewalk, not in the middle of a crash, but as a part of their practice, and going the wrong way on the street as part of their practice. I’ve seen it, plenty of times, it’s been reported to me by lots of my constituents. You don’t see cars drive on the sidewalk a whole lot, or go the wrong way down the street a whole lot as a matter of course, some do it and they caught a lot of the time, or God forbid there’s an accident. E-bikes, it’s that the problem with them is, is they’re betwixt in between. They kind of don’t fit any easy category and therefore the people who use them take some liberties and the law has been amorphous, and we’ve got to bring all these pieces together. Now the good news is, if we can look the speed levels down, physically, that will really substantially help address the problem.
Question: Just the second part of the question, are you sensitive – you know, you promote as a proud champion of a sanctuary city, a lot of these e-bike riders are immigrant delivery workers, and this is how they make their livelihood. Are you worried this crackdown is, you know, targeting them even if you say it’s supposed to be towards business but it’s—
Yeah, well first of all it is supposed to be toward businesses and I, you know, have had this conversation with the NYPD that we have to ensure that all precincts are educated on this point. Wherever the summons can be given to let’s say the restaurant, rather than the worker, we want that. Now what we found since is some workers work for these kinds of consortiums that you know are their own companies and that creates a little bit of a problem but I’ve got to go with safety first. I really have to emphasize this. This is a safety problem, and it’s a safety problem waiting to happen a lot of the time too. To Gale [Brewer]’s point, I hear this a lot of from senior citizens in particular, and I got to start with safety. Now, I would also say to all the restaurants, for example, there’s other ways to deliver, you know. Before they used e-bikes as much they found plenty of other methodologies to deliver, they could be using the ones that are already legal and straight forward. So I don’t think there’s only one to solve it but what I hope we can do in Albany in the next couple of months is come up with a way to legalize, reduce the speed, have some kind of transitional effort to help the current folks, I think there’s a pathway to that, but if you say, even though I absolutely believe in respecting and supporting immigrants, but there’s a public safety issue, I’m always going to start with the public safety need.
Julianne Cuba joined Streetsblog in February, 2019, after three years covering local news and politics at The Brooklyn Paper. There, she also covered the notoriously reckless private carting industry and hit-and-runs. A 2015 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Journalism Master’s Program, she lives in Brooklyn. Julianne is on Twitter at @julcuba. Email Julianne at firstname.lastname@example.org
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