E-bikes and e-scooters, environmentally friendly alternative forms of transportation and the lifeblood of delivery workers throughout New York City, has become a point of contention.
Ahead of a State Senate hearing, State Senator Jessica Ramos (D-East Elmhurst) rallied in Flushing on Friday to push for legislation that would protect the job security of immigrant workers in the delivery industry who use the e-bikes so that they won’t get charged anywhere from $100 to $500 in fines, or get their vehicles impounded, a traffic infraction or face civil action, because of older laws enacted in 2004 and 2013.
“The crackdown on our immigrant delivery workers has been a grave injustice,” said Ramos in a video posted on Twitter. “By legalizing e-bikes, not only are we ensuring that those pesky $500 tickets from the NYPD will hopefully come to an end, but we are actually offering carbon free micro-mobility, different alternative modes of transportation that is sorely needed here in Queens.”
As her rally and Senate hearing continued on June 7th, the NYPD posted pictures on its Twitter page of e-bikes that were seized in the last couple of days.
The NYPD has not responded with a comment.
Supporters of e-bikes include Transportation Alternatives, Biking Public Project and Make the Road New York.
“Delivery workers continue to be criminalized just for doing their job,” said Deborah Axt, Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York. “Every day, workers accumulate substantial debt in fines, risk increased police interaction, and even have the very tools they are required to purchase confiscated, all while biking through dangerous weather and traffic conditions, just to make a living. After years of organizing by workers and advocates, we are now counting on the New York State legislature to legalize electric bicycles and allow workers to do their job, which so many of us depend on, in peace.”
One of the delivery workers to be fined was Li Jinhua.
“This year, when I was riding my e-bike, I was also given two $500 tickets and my e-bike was confiscated once. I don’t understand why the New York City government supports Citi Bike e-bikes but they don’t allow me to travel by my e-bike. We delivery workers no matter how hot it is in summer, we work at the hottest temperatures to deliver food to NYC customers,” said Jinhua. “No matter how cold it is in winter, we also ride in wind and snow to deliver the hot meals to New Yorkers. Delivery workers at my age, in their 50s or 60s, have all kinds of injuries. Without e-bikes, our physical condition would not allow us to cycle for 10 hours a day. We also can’t afford to buy cars and motorcycles.”
Safety, however, remains a top priority of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Speaker Corey Johnson.
“The legislation proposed as part of the Governor’s Executive Budget offered an initial authorization of e-scooters that recognized local autonomy in regards to that question, while also establishing statewide safety and operational requirements,” said a spokesman of Cuomo. “The final enacted budget, agreed upon by the Senate and Assembly did not include the authorization and it is now up to the Legislature to determine if they want to pursue this in the future.”
Some of the safety requirements from the executive budget proposal included mandated helmets, lights, and reflectors to be established in state law, according to the spokesman.
“Safety will always be the top priority on our streets. As the mayor has said many times, we need clarity from the state on all things e-transportation before we can make any decision,” said Seth Stein, the mayor spokesman.
Johnson, while supportive of alternative modes of transportation maintained his position on doing a rollout of e-bikes and e-scooters out of fear of injuries for users.
“We need to legalize e-bikes for delivery workers. This should not be our enforcement focus,” said Johnson. “Maybe we could find certain neighborhoods where we could pilot this — maybe out in the Rockaways and see what it’s like on the boardwalk.”