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‘Fairest City’ Mayor Orders More Crackdowns on Lowly E-Cyclists

11:54 AM EDT on June 4, 2019

Soon, you won’t see this anymore: E-bikes are legal! Photo: Macartney Morris

This just in: Mayor de Blasio, who is running for president on a progressive platform that bills New York as "America's Fairest Big City," deployed the NYPD on Tuesday morning to confiscate the electric bikes of delivery workers — costing them roughly one-week's pay in fines.

Cops confiscated at least two delivery cyclists' throttle-controlled bikes — which are illegal, despite widespread support for legalization in Albany and among cycling advocates in the city — in a sting operation on First Avenue under the 59th Street Bridge on Tuesday morning. The cyclists were detained and given $500 summonses — equal to a week's wages, they say — and then forced to try to make a living without their main tool.

"This is @NYCMayor @BilldeBlasio’s 'working people first' policies in action," tweeted Macartney Morris, a Queens cyclist and former head of that borough's Transportation Alternatives' volunteer committee, who witnessed the operation as he completed his own commute to work. He was referring to de Blasio's presidential slogan.

The cops were staked out under the bridge overpass — in a two-way protected bike lane. In the past, Mayor de Blasio has said he favors confiscating the bikes of the poorly paid workers because e-bikes are dangerous to pedestrians (though statistics show otherwise). But Morris said the fact that cops were deployed in a two-way bike lane belies de Blasio's larger intent.

This is Aldo and his $500 ticket. Photo: Macartney Morris
This is Aldo and his $500 ticket. Photo: Macartney Morris
We're told this isn't going to happen anymore. Photo: Macartney Morris

"This is the future [de Blasio] and Sen. Liz Krueger want," Morris added, referring to an Albany lawmaker who opposes a bill by her Queens colleague Jessica Ramos to legalize e-bikes. "When they say 'ebikes aren’t safe for Manhattan,' they mean they want the police to criminalize immigrant workers."

Morris spoke to one of the cyclists, who showed him the $500 ticket and said it was equal to a week's wages.

"He’s now headed to take the train back to Queens to get his other e-bike," Morris said. "He can’t afford to miss work today."

The city has engaged in a crackdown on throttle-powered electric bicycles for more two years, confiscating thousands of the devices, which are mostly used by low-paid, often-immigrant, delivery workers. At the same time, the city has legalized pedal-assist electric bikes so that Citi Bike could offer them, at a $2 premium, to their customers.

Mayor de Blasio says the electric bikes are unsafe. As recently as April, when he was presented with data showing that e-bikes have caused virtually no injuries to pedestrians, he doubled-down on his opposition.

“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," he said. "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 progressive mayor has also rejected calls for a city program that would convert the delivery workers' bikes from their illegal throttle-controlled form to a pedal-assist format. He has also said he wants the NYPD to slap tickets on business owners who use e-bikes to make their deliveries, but cops continue to summons the workers almost exclusively. Most business have avoided those fines because their workers are independent contractors.

The mayor has also not announced any crackdown on NYPD officials at 1 Police Plaza who order food to be delivered by e-bike-using workers, which Streetsblog previously covered.

Members of the City Council are increasingly pushing back on de Blasio's war on delivery workers. Council Member Rafael Espinal reiterated his call for passage of the Ramos bill on Tuesday.

And last month, amid another crackdown by the nearby 13th Precinct, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson slammed the NYPD for its misguided priorities.

“This should not be our enforcement focus," the speaker tweeted.

The State Senate Transportation Committee will take up Ramos's bill with a hearing on Friday at 10 a.m. in Flushing. For more info, visit the Streetsblog calendar.

Streetsblog reached out to the NYPD for comment and additional information. We will update this story when we get more information. After initial publication, more information about the operation was published on Twitter.

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