Speaker Corey Johnson Fights 13th Precinct Over E-Bike Confiscations

The precinct bragged about confiscating four e-bikes — including one with a child's seat — and the council speaker is having none of it.

Yes, the latest e-bike crackdown included a bicycle with a child's seat. Photo: NYPD
Yes, the latest e-bike crackdown included a bicycle with a child's seat. Photo: NYPD

E-yikes!

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson trolled commanders of a Midtown Manhattan police precinct on social media this week after they boasted on Twitter about confiscating four electric bicycles that appeared to belong to delivery workers— including one with a child’s seat.

The post by the 13th Precinct was tagged “#VisionZero” — an ironic nod to the city’s ongoing efforts to reduce carnage caused by 2,000-pound automobiles, yet has involved crackdowns on people riding e-bikes, despite the fact that they cause minuscule numbers of injuries.

Johnson pulled out his own smartphone and basically called the crackdown dumb.

“We need to legalize e-bikes for delivery workers,” Johnson tweeted. “This should not be our enforcement focus.”

The fine for riding an e-bike is $500 and each e-bike is worth around $1,500. All told, the four delivery workers whose bikes the 13th Precinct confiscated lost thousands of dollars in fines and lost property and wages. The NYPD did not reveal their identities.

The 13th Precinct declined multiple inquiries from Streetsblog to comment, deferring to the department’s press office. That office did not respond either.

Efforts to legalize e-bikes are moving slowly, after a jolt of momentum from the e-scooter industry last fall brought a slew of city council members on board. That effort stalled, however, when Johnson’s legal team insisted that legalization requires action from the state legislature — a position contested by some advocates.

Governor Cuomo included such legislation in his budget proposal in January, but the senate and assembly scrapped it due to opposition from Manhattan legislators, whose constituents generate the most e-bike complaints of anywhere in the city. In April, State Senator Jessica Ramos and Assembly Member Nily Rozic, both of Queens, introduced their own bills.

Mayor de Blasio defends the NYPD’s enforcement practices, arguing that the city has no choice given the bikes’ current legal status and the perceived public safety concern, which is not backed by NYPD data. He often cites anecdotes of constituents telling him that they are “almost hit” by cyclists.

“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 on April 18. “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.”

The NYPD declined to provide the latest statistics on the number of e-bikes it has confiscated.

“The NYPD’s continued confiscation of e-bikes from delivery workers puts the lie to Mayor de Blasio’s ‘working people first’ rhetoric,” said Macartney Morris of the Biking Public Project. “New York City would be a better place for workers — safer, greener, and more equitable — if the mayor spent less time talking to Iowa farmers and focused on having dialogue with immigrant delivery workers and working with them to pass state and local bills to legalize their e-bikes.”

  • Joe R.

    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

    Right, let’s make it conform to how regular motor vehicles work by killing 200+ people per year.

  • “Mayor de Blasio defends the NYPD’s enforcement practices, arguing that the city has no choice given the bikes’ current legal status and the perceived public safety concern…”

    Weird that he doesn’t take the same approach to placard abuse or cars parked on sidewalks. In the Fairest City in America, “the law is the law” applies to some New Yorkers but not others.

  • PDiddy

    Delivery people should just get a moped/motorcycle at this point. DB has had plenty of time to do the right thing, he refuses to do it.

  • r

    Many delivery cyclists may be undocumented and can’t get or don’t have a driver’s license.

  • William Lawson

    ” arguing that the city has no choice” – OH F*CK OFF de Blasio. You know as well as anyone else that the NYPD most certainly “has a choice” about where it does and doesn’t distribute its law enforcement resources. So when we ask a cop to ticket a truck in the bike lane and he says “we give them a pass because they’re working,” how exactly does that fit in with your worldview that the city has no choice but to ticket everyone who breaks the law regardless of circumstance? Bottom line is: REAL men with REAL trucks that run on REAL gasoline are “goodfellas” who are just “doing their job” and deserve a little “professional courtesy,” whereas these GODDAMN ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS WHO PROBABLY DON’T EVEN SPEAK ENGLISH who ride GODDAMN LIBERAL PUSSY BICYCLES THAT GET IN THE WAY OF TRUCKS & SUVS’s are law breaking scum who deserve to have the full weight of the jack boot on their necks.

    THIS IS LITERALLY WHY NOBODY GIVES A SHIT WHEN AN NYPD OFFICER GETS SHOT.

  • AMH

    If the problem is people being almost hit, how about almost confiscating the bikes?

  • AMH

    Well, I was with you until that last line. I wouldn’t go quite that far.

  • AMH

    Would that be more expensive? I’m sure the NYPD would still harass them even if they couldn’t take the vehicles.

  • Joe R.

    I’m a little more nuanced there. I might give a shit if the shot officer sounded like a good cop and a decent human being.

  • William Lawson

    It’s not about wishing officers get shot. It’s about not feeling the “collective grief” we’re supposed to feel when an officer is killed on the job, because after years of observing the NYPD, it is clear that they don’t give a shit when we get killed either.

  • relevantjeff

    They all do, once the New York Post gets their hands on the story.

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