Life on the Street: Delivery Worker Eduardo Perez Has No Use For de Blasio’s E-Bike Crackdown

E-bike riders are going to have to contend with a whole new police crackdown unless the City Council acts quickly. Photo: Wilfred Chan
E-bike riders are going to have to contend with a whole new police crackdown unless the City Council acts quickly. Photo: Wilfred Chan

Eduardo Perez is a 19-year-old delivery worker living in New York City. He organizes with Make the Road New York to end the criminalization of delivery workers who depend on electric bikes to complete their grueling shifts. Wilfred Chan, a volunteer with the Biking Public Project and Deliver Justice Coalition, interviewed Eduardo and produced this video. Mel Gonzalez of Make the Road provided the translation below.

My name is Eduardo Perez, and right now I’m working doing deliveries in New York City. I’ve been working for approximately one and a half years. And I need to do this work to make money, and help my family, and have enough for basic needs, like paying for an apartment, phone, and television.

Why do you ride an e-bike?

The job that I have means working 12 hours a day, and it’s really exhausting. I use it because of necessity. In New York City, the traffic is very heavy, and the distances we run in the restaurant are really long. A bike can advance 30 blocks in the time that a car can only advance 10 blocks. Traveling on the bike is faster and more economical.

Life is hard for delivery workers, who have to deal with New York drivers AND New York cops. Photo: Wilfred Chan
Life is hard for delivery workers, who have to deal with New York drivers AND New York cops. Photo: Wilfred Chan

What is delivery work like?

Working delivery isn’t an easy job, because we take on a lot of risks. Here in New York City, the temperatures get really cold. Even when it is snowing, raining, or there is a lot of wind, or when it gets really hot, it doesn’t matter: we keep working, and we make our deliveries. There are a lot of big trucks, and we have to be near them, so we risk getting run over, or getting in an accident. With the taxis, it’s the same, they don’t realize that we’re behind them. There are lot of accidents, many times a car will open the door on me. I haven’t been in a big accident, but we get really scared. Also, in the streets, there are lot of bad people who are prejudiced against you. They don’t just rob you; what they want is to hurt you, without any reason. And we face another big problem, which is the police.

How do police treat you?

They don’t let us work in peace. We’re scared that they’ll fine us, arrest us, confiscate our bikes, because even if you don’t do anything wrong, they have the authority to stop you and take your bike without any reason. That’s unjust because we don’t harm anyone. We just do our jobs and they label us criminals, just because we use our tool, the e-bike. The fines they give us are really high: $500, $700 — too high to pay with our job.

What has your experience been like with police?

A few months ago, I was working, and I was stopped at a traffic light. Next to me was a New York policeman. He got out of the car, came toward me and asked me why I was using the bike lane. He claimed I had to use the car lane, and I said that’s not right, because I’m on a bike, and if I ride in the car lane I could get into a crash. The cop didn’t care and gave me four tickets, costing around $900, and confiscated my bicycle.

Perez attended last week's rally in support of e-bike workers. Photo: Wilfred Chan
Perez attended last week’s rally in support of e-bike workers. Photo: Wilfred Chan

So I went to pay the ticket in the Bronx, and I went to the bank to withdraw $1,000. As I left the bank, a man approached me claiming he was a police officer and that he was going to search me, and I didn’t see a choice but to say okay, because I hadn’t done anything wrong. During the search, he saw my money, and he took it and ran. So I called the police, but they didn’t do anything. I had to wait for the court date, so I had to buy another bike, and the price was very high — $1,700 — but I had no other option but to buy it, since I had to keep working. They did eventually give me my bike back, but I still had to pay the tickets. I still owe around $400.

What do you think of the argument that e-bikes are dangerous?

Everything is dangerous if it isn’t used responsibly. In a car, if you go very fast, you can cause crashes, so everyone has to take measures to avoid that. So I don’t see the reason to prohibit e-bikes.

Many people are against these, and they don’t want to help us, because according to them, this vehicle is a danger to the city. But we are also very responsible; we don’t want to cause harm or get into accidents, we’re just working without hurting anyone. No one wants to provoke an accident or get involved with the police, we just want to work.

In my opinion, I would like electric bicycles to be legalized, because working all day is exhausting.  And it doesn’t just interest me, but all the workers in the city. They all have families, they all have to earn money and fulfill their needs.

But it’s not just delivery workers; there are folks who use these kind of bikes to bring their kids to school. E-bikes also help the environment because they don’t pollute, like gas-powered vehicles. They avoid increasing traffic, and they’re better for your health.

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