Cops are cracking down on Astoria’s illegal food delivery scooters

The 114th Precinct is spearheading an initiative to get electric motor scooters off of Astoria streets.
Photo courtesy of Kim Nguyen/Bushwick Daily

Cops are spearheading an initiative to get illegal scooters driven by restaurant delivery employees off of Astoria streets.

According to Captain Peter Fortune, the 114th Precinct’s commanding officer, residents had been complaining about the issue at recent 114th Precinct Community Council and Community Board 1 meetings, arguing that the people operating the vehicles were not obeying traffic control devices and driving the wrong way on one-way streets.

“Everywhere you look in Astoria, they’re being operated,” Fortune said.

On Jan. 26, the precinct began a three-day initiative to target the use of these scooters. At the end of the initiative, the force seized 11 electric scooters and handed out 11 summonses to the owners of the commercial establishments operating the vehicles.

The electric bikes cannot be registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles and cannot be considered bicycles because they are powered by both pedals and electric motors.

Fortune said his officers also tied in an educational component. The NYPD spoke to restaurant owners and deliverymen along commercial strips in Astoria to notify them that these scooters are illegal and that different arrangements should be made when delivering food to customers.

He added that the 114th Precinct is not targeting deliverymen but issuing summonses to businesses that are responsible for purchasing the scooters and telling their employees to operate them. He also said his precinct is the first in Queens “that’s taken an aggressive stance on this.”

“If this is the community issue, then we’re going to address it,” Fortune said.

Councilman Costa Constantinides also brought this problem to the attention of Fortune and sent a letter to the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) asking for backup from the city agency.

“There seems to be a new local hot spot opening on every corner,” Constantinides said in the letter. “With this surge of activity, there are many food delivery cyclists and motorists we need to share the road with. Unfortunately, these drivers do not consistently adhere to city’s traffic laws. Oftentimes, they fail to yield to traffic signals and stop signs, while also driving on the sidewalk for convenience.”

He asked the DCA to enforce its rule requiring food delivery employees to wear reflective cycling gear and to conduct outreach campaigns to educate restaurant owners and employees about their responsibilities to follow traffic laws.

Fortune and his officers plan to maintain the initiative and reassess the situation further. If they continue to see these illegal scooters in the area, officers will do more enforcement and educational outreach in the future, he said.

The NYPD began a citywide crackdown last summer and were instructed to hand out environmental control board violations, which come with a $500 fine. Fortune said city agencies are also looking at the businesses that rent or sell these scooters in order to eliminate the problem.

“We don’t want to hit businesses,” Fortune said. “We want a successful commercial industry. We just have to do it safely.”