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

Cops from the 19th Precinct busted e-bike-riding delivery workers in a protected bike lane on Tuesday. Photo: Macartney Morris
Cops from the 19th Precinct busted e-bike-riding delivery workers in a protected bike lane on Tuesday. 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

“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.

  • Joseph R.

    Mayor: E-bikes are dangerous! They ride the wrong way. They ride on sidewalks.
    Mayor: *orders cops to confiscate e-bikes riding the correct way in a bike lane*

  • Zero Vision

    De Blasio is a fake progressive. Just a total phony. Is there no one in City Hall who’s willing to stand up to this guy and end this harassment campaign against immigrants? How many people who work for him fancy themselves part of the #Resistance but are totally silent here? Shame on anyone who works for this idiot.

  • Joe R.

    If the Ramos bill passes are all the people who got fined over the last two years going to get their money back? They should.

  • Sassojr

    Mayor: “We’ve got to stop all these dirt bikes parading through our city”

    NYPD: Sets up no less than 5 unconstitutional Motorcycle only Checkpoints in a single day (today). Harassing law abiding motorcyclists while stopping ZERO illegal dirt bikes.

    -42nd Street West Side Highway NB
    -SI Expwy EB HOV @ Clove Rd.
    -Williamsburg Bridge WB, Western Terminus
    -97th Street and CPW
    -GCP EB @ Union Turnpike

  • JR

    They need to GTFO with that independent contractor nonsense. These business tell their delivery workers where and when to go somewhere and when to show up for work (I.e., they are employees). They merely use that label because they want to avoid taxes and other employment regulations, and they do it with a group who are unlikely to fight back.

  • While I don’t disagree that the police should be putting more effort into catching people riding dirt bikes, you really need to stop with this “unconstitutional” nonsense.

    There is a fundamental difference between exercising a right and exercising a privilege. Walking down the street or riding a bicycle constitute expressions of rights that every person in the U.S. is endowed with simply by virtue of existing. Therefore, any stop of someone exercising these rights must be predicated on the basis of a reasonable suspicion of criminality. For this reason, stop-and-frisk was wrong.

    By contrast, operating a motor vehicle is not a right, but, rather, a privilege granted by the state. The authorities may make unannounced spot checks on anyone who is exercising this privilege; indeed, the protection of society demands that they do so. For this reason, vehicle checkpoints are constitutionally sound.

    We need far more enforcement against drivers of all motor vehicles (most definitely including motorcyclists). This enforcement should come in the form of greater scrutiny of the roads, so as to catch vehicle operators in the act of speeding, blowing red lights, blowing stop signs, stopping ahead of stopping lines, turning without signalling, etc.

    Vehicle operators behave like this because they know that being caught is very unlikely. In order to change this attitude, enforcement should also include extensive use of random stops and checkpoints. This would send the message to vehicle operators that they are under scrutiny, thereby incentivising them to drive legally and to keep their papers in order. And, in the best-case scenario, it would induce some of them not to drive at all and to opt for one of the many alternatives available in this City.

  • Kevin Dann

    This would be a cruel joke, if it weren’t a tragedy – for the hard–working delivery guys, and for all New Yorkers, who should be coming to their defense during this obscene siege. Where the he– is the NYPD enforcement against the daily–growing scourge of illegal electric scooters, ‘one-wheels,’ and other motorized transport that is already wreaking havoc on our streets (and sidewalks – I have a friend laid up for a month after having been run over by one – on a midtown sidewalk!)?!

  • Sassojr

    More actual enforcement, sure.

    But you’re just wrong on checkpoints. Even DUI checkpoints are so close to the violating 4th amendment rights that they have been challenged (and upheld) in the Supreme Court multiple times. If it was so clear they weren’t violating rights (just restricting privilege), the cases would’ve been refused. You’re specifically not allowed to single out by vehicle type (obviously you can’t use race, gender, etc.).

    For the most part the officers in NYC are conducting a “safety check” (which used to get federal funding, maybe it still does?) something specifically mentioned in Rehnquist’s decision. We already get an annual safety inspection, from a trained mechanic. These officers generally have no clue what they’re looking for, so it’s hardly a safety check. Just a waste of time and resources.

    https://youtu.be/1xT3dvYh72g (9 officers having no clue what safety issues they’re inspecting)

    Excerpts From Supreme Court’s Decision Upholding Sobriety Checkpoints (and barring safety Checkpoints): https://nyti.ms/29jTovg

  • Dan Sciannameo

    Enforce the rules for going the wrong way, passing lights etc, but dont outlaw and confiscate the bike . The mayor is a faux progressive. More.bikes lanes, legalization of all e bikes, and dedicated motorcycle and scooter parking. This city is only welcoming to cars. The mayor is in their pocket.

  • Simon Phearson

    You need to stop with this “it ain’t unconstitutional” nonsense.

    There is nothing constitutional about “randomly” stopping anyone using public rights of way absent probable cause, and nothing about driving a motor vehicle’s requiring a driver’s license fundamentally changes this core principle of constitutional law.

    You obviously know nothing about it, and you’re just propagating misinformation here. You should be ashamed to be such a blatant fraud.

  • One might assume that someone who dares to issue lectures on being a “fraud” would grasp the distinction between probably cause, which is the standard for arrest, and reasonable suspicion, which is the standard for a stop. But that assumption would be incorrect. After all, they let anyone on the internet.

    Anyway, the issue isn’t the use of the public rights of way; the issue is the operation of the motor vehicle. As stated, someone walking (or bicycling or skating or pogo-sticking) down the street is entitled to constitutional protections against improper stops. However, operating a motor vehicle is not a constitutional right (contrary to the quintessential twisted American fantasy).

    Note that the holder of a retail food licence can be checked at any time to see whether he/she is in compliance with that licence. Likewise the holder of a liquor licence. It is therefore consistent that the holder of a driver’s licence be subject to the same degree and type of scrutiny.

  • Simon Phearson

    Fine – reasonable suspicion, then – that a crime is being committed.

    The fact that there is no constitutional “right to drive” does not mean that drivers have no constitutionally-protected interest not to be stopped randomly by the police, without reasonable suspicion that they are engaged in any crime.

  • Sassojr

    “Note that the holder of a retail food licence can be checked at any time to see whether he/she is in compliance with that licence. Likewise the holder of a liquor licence. It is therefore consistent that the holder of a driver’s licence be subject to the same degree and type of scrutiny.”

    Ok, so let’s say DOH only checks up on Mexican restaurants, that’s perfectly ok in your world then, right? I mean they have to be compliant with their license, right? So lets only check Mexican restaurants since I once got sick after eating Taco Bell.

  • You’ll note that I mentioned random stops and checkpoints. Singling out a particular ethnic or racial group for compliance checks would clearly be improper.

    Absent such impermissible ethnic/racial targeting, a checkpoint that stops all vehicles or all motorcycles is entirely appropriate.

  • Sassojr

    A Mexican restaurant is a type of restaurant, a motorcycle is a type of vehicle. If you wouldn’t randomly check only Mexican restaurants, you shouldn’t be ok with randomly checking only motorcyclists.

  • That is the same spurious reasoning that spawned the absurdity of “blue lives matter”. Cops are not an ethnic group; and neither are motorcyclists. (I am absolutely certain that you understand this; so I must prevail upon you to cease engaging in such abject intellectual dishonesty.)

    The equivalent of a health check of only Mexican restaurants would be a motorcycle checkpoint that stopped only Latino-looking motorcyclists or only black motorcyclists.

  • Sassojr

    I’m tired of the circles, I tried to be fair and contrast with legal DUI Checkpoints. You’re missing the point, so I’ll leave this here from Delaware v Prouse:

    “The State’s interest in discretionary spot checks as a means of ensuring the safety of its roadways does not outweigh the resulting intrusion on the privacy and security of the persons detained.”

  • qrt145

    I agree with you on motorcycle checkpoints, but please don’t call Taco Bell “Mexican”. 🙂

  • Sassojr

    Heh, it was a quick analogy. Wasn’t the point ?