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City to begin crackdown on electronic bikes

The city is cracking down on the use of electric bikes by delivery workers after Mayor Bill de Blasio hears multiple compaints during recent town hall meetings.
Photo by Bill Parry
By Bill Parry

During a series of town hall meetings over the last few weeks, Mayor Bill de Blasio has identified a growing safety and quality-of-life issue faced by New Yorkers: electronic bikes driven by restaurant delivery workers. Beginning Jan. 1 the NYPD will start seizing the bikes, which are illegal in the city, and fining the businesses that use them.

“We have to go after the businesses. They are profiting from violating the law,” de Blasio said Oct. 19. “We love our city, but let’s be clear — crossing the street in New York City should not be a harrowing experience. E-bikes are illegal to operate in New York City and the NYPD is stepping up enforcement. Those at the top of the food chain need to be held accountable. That’s why instead of merely targeting riders, we’re going after the businesses that look the other way and leave their workers to shoulder the fine.”

So far this year, the NYPD has seized nearly 1,000 e-bikes compared to 341 it confiscated last year, an increase of 170 percent. Beginning in 2018, the police will not only seize bikes and fine the rider, but they will identify the business that deployed them.

“All our business delivery people, we know they wear the vest identifying what business that they’re going to or they have an identification card,” Chief of Patrol Terrence Monahan said. “The cops will go back to the precinct. On the Secretary of State website, all we have to do is put in that address. We’ll find out who the owner of the business is. Our officers will prepare a summons and mail it to that location. Simple as that.”

Riders caught operating an e-bike are now subject to a civil summons, confiscations and fines of up to $500. Beginning next year, businesses that utilize e-bikes or allow employees to operate them will receive a civil summons and a $100 fine for a first offense and a $200 fine for each subsequent offense.

“E-bikes are too often a danger on the city’s streets and sidewalks,” NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said. “They’re illegal to operate here, but it seems like you can spot them everywhere — and that’s where our increased enforcement comes in. The NYPD is committed to keeping city streets safe for everyone and e-bike enforcement is an important part of the plan.”

Transportation Alternatives, the safe streets advocates with more than 150,000 supporters, is balking at the new policy, which they say is misguided.

“Clearly, this e-bike crackdown is about listening to the loudest complainers, not listening to the data,” Transportation Alternatives Deputy Director Caroline Samponaro said. “In the Vision Zero era, there is no place for complaint-driven enforcement. According to NYPD data, drivers speeding and failing to yield are the ones causing death and serious injuries on NYC streets. Rather than attacking the livelihoods of hardworking, predominantly immigrant delivery cyclists, the mayor should follow the lead of California and work with the New York State Legislature to pass commonsense e-bike legislation that establishes a framework for safe, pedal-powered, low-speed models.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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