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New York - NYC Electric Bike Crackdown Spurs Delivery Worker Concern

Published on: December 25, 2017 12:04 PM
By: AP
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A man making deliveries rides an electronic bike in New York, Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)A man making deliveries rides an electronic bike in New York, Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

New York - Cheap, electric bicycles have made life a lot easier for New York City’s legions of restaurant delivery workers, but the party may be over in the New Year.

City officials are promising a crackdown on e-bikes, which may be loved by environmentalists and the largely poor, immigrant workforce that relies on them, but are loathed by many drivers and pedestrians who think they are a menace.

Under city law, the bikes are legal to own and sell, but riding them on the street can lead to a fine of up to $500. Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio announced this fall that starting in 2018, businesses that have employees use the bikes are also subject to a fine of $100 for a first offense and $200 for each subsequent offense.

“Electric bikes are illegal to operate on city streets and those at the top of the food chain need to be held accountable,” city spokesman Austin Finan said. “Instead of merely targeting riders, we’re going after businesses that look the other way and leave their workers to shoulder the fine.”

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That policy will undoubtedly prove popular with many New Yorkers who have complained that the bikes, which look and handle just like regular bicycles but can reach speeds of 20 mph or more, are often operated recklessly. Lots of people have stories about close calls where they stepped out into the street, only to nearly be hit by a quick-moving bike they couldn’t hear coming.

But it will be bad news for deliverymen like Clemente Martinez, who spends up to 12 hours a day in the saddle, often in lousy weather.

“It’s not fair because people like me do depend on them,” said Martinez through a translator. The 44-year-old from Puebla, Mexico, came to the United States almost 15 years ago and has been working as a delivery person almost all that time, buying his electric bicycle almost three years ago. “We’re using this as something that lets us work and support our families.”

The bikes make a tremendous difference for the delivery workforce, said Do Lee, a Ph.D. candidate who studied delivery workers for his dissertation and advocates for them. Many of the workers are middle-aged or even older, working for hours and putting in a significant number of miles to meet the demand for food and other items to be delivered quickly.

“They couldn’t do their jobs without electric bikes,” he said.

Advocates for alternate forms of transportation say the crackdown also doesn’t make sense from an environmental or safety perspective.

Gas-powered mopeds, which are faster and heavier than e-bikes, continue to be legal under state law, although they must be registered and the driver must be licensed. A business using one for deliveries also has to have insurance.

Some cycling advocacy groups have challenged the city to produce data showing whether the e-bikes pose any unusual danger, compared to other vehicles.

“In the realm of enforcement, data needs to be the impetus,” said Caroline Samponaro, deputy director of Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy organization. “I don’t think enforcement is the solution to the problem we’re trying to solve.”

Federal law allows electric bicycles that go 20 mph or less to be treated as bicycles for product safety and standards, but New York state law doesn’t allow them to be registered or licensed as motorized vehicles.

Police enforcement against the bicycles has already been on the upswing, with almost 1,000 of them confiscated by police in 2017, an increase of several hundred from the year before.

While new electric bikes can go for several thousands of dollars, similar to some gas-powered scooters like Vespas, kits to convert a standard bike to an electric bike can be bought for under $500.

Elizabeth Jordan, an attorney with the Make the Road New York advocacy group, said restaurants have come to expect workers to have the bikes and require them to own and maintain them.

“They have to have these bikes in order to get these jobs,” she said. “We think that even though the policy has the intention of going after the restaurants, it will fall on the backs of the workers.”



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Read Comments (11)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Dec 25, 2017 at 12:22 PM sissel613 Says:

It's about time!! I have had near misses twice as a pedestrian with these bikes!! In my humble opinion, any motorized-- anything that is motorized by electricity, fossil fuels, natural gases, a combination of the above--in other words anything that works without being actually pedaled--needs to have license plates and licensed drivers and helmets!!!
These delivery people don't care where they drive--the street or sidewalks. They are careless and dangerous.

2

 Dec 25, 2017 at 12:47 PM Anonymous Says:

But don't go after the young arrogant driver who ignore every traffic rule !!!

3

 Dec 25, 2017 at 01:39 PM sissel613 Says:

Reply to #2  
Anonymous Says:

But don't go after the young arrogant driver who ignore every traffic rule !!!

you're absolutely right!! Although driving arrogance isn't only young drivers--they run the gambit as far as age is concerned

4

 Dec 25, 2017 at 02:09 PM obey the law Says:

In my opinion, they seem to do everything possible to win the jackpot, which is get in an accident. They are currently against the law but our DiBlasio gave them a few moths notice before enforcing the law and will only enforce in Manhattan.

5

 Dec 25, 2017 at 02:20 PM Butterfly Says:

They should be licensed. Any motorized vehicle must be licensed. Why don't we take this to Simcha Felder? Also, this will give the state money and they will not have to bother the taxpayer for something else!!

6

 Dec 25, 2017 at 02:34 PM Entrepreneur Says:

Someone should market a speed regulator for the bikes to travel no faster than 19 m:oh and you’re all set

7

 Dec 25, 2017 at 04:01 PM AmYisroel Says:

“Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”

8

 Dec 25, 2017 at 06:44 PM mewhoze Says:

all bikes, scooters etc should have to be insured

9

 Dec 25, 2017 at 07:45 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #5  
Butterfly Says:

They should be licensed. Any motorized vehicle must be licensed. Why don't we take this to Simcha Felder? Also, this will give the state money and they will not have to bother the taxpayer for something else!!

Licenses have never been available.

10

 Dec 26, 2017 at 11:53 AM mayereke Says:

DATA? is there any hard data comparing delivery on these bikes to scooters or reg bikes ... i seem to think that although a bit annoying no less safe than a moped..
registering the bike doesnt do much in terms of safety
these delivery guys are providing a service that me or you dont want to do

11

 Dec 26, 2017 at 04:40 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #10  
mayereke Says:

DATA? is there any hard data comparing delivery on these bikes to scooters or reg bikes ... i seem to think that although a bit annoying no less safe than a moped..
registering the bike doesnt do much in terms of safety
these delivery guys are providing a service that me or you dont want to do

I would if it were legal.

12

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