NYPD Strengthens Enforcements on Cracking Down E-bikes

Even though business owners are liable for allowing workers to use e-bikes according to the law, it is the riders, usually ethnic minorities, who pay for the fine in the end.

A deliveryman pauses briefly at the intersection of Second Avenue and 72th Street and then smoothly weaves through the mass congestion in a blink before the traffic light turning into green, without even pushing on the pedals.

Starting from early October, NYPD’s 19th Precinct, along with a local neighborhood association (E72NA) will be launching a Commercial Cycling Safety Campaign in Upper East Side. One major goal of the campaign is to crack down the use of e-bikes, an illegal act that annoys local residents but ubiquitous among local restaurants serving take-out orders.

Christopher Helms, NYPD officer who’s in charge of 19th Precinct Community Affairs said bikes, primarily e-bikes, is the number one complaint they’ve heard from community meetings.

“There’s a large senior population in this neighborhood. They complain about delivery guys riding too fast,” said Helms. “They are gonna be seriously hurt if knocked down by e-bikes,” he added.

“We listen to our community complaint, and enforce the laws people prefer us to enforce.”

Typically, riders must pay $500 to get a confiscated e-bike back, which is equivalent to what a deliveryman earns for one week. This year, signs will be posted at residential buildings, indicating use of e-bikes might result in a 30-day ban from future deliveries to the building.

Liz Patrick, Vice President of E72NA said they are expanding member buildings but also indicated each building would make its own determination about this policy.

The campaign will hurt restaurants in the pocket if carried out, but the first challenge is to identify an e-bike. Even though motorized bikes are prohibited under the law of New York City, it doesn’t explicitly ban pedal assist bikes, or the combined version that can be toggled between “pedal” and “throttle” modes. Even DOT Commercial Bicyclist Safety poster does not mention the prohibition of e-bikes.

Daniel Flanzig, an attorney representing cyclists involved in accidents, said, “It’s a very strange loophole in New York as to what a e-bike is. In order to enforce the law, you have to define what you are trying to enforce.”

“E-bikes are great devices but used irresponsibly,” said Flanzig. “Delivery guys simply need more trainings,” he added.

E-bikes usually go up to 20 miles per hour. It makes delivery 40% faster and less exhausting for people pedaling all year long to make minimum wages.

“A lot of seniors do deliveries. Their knees can’t take that pressures without using e-bikes,” said Xi Lu, 52, a deliveryman working at Mingala Burmese on Second Avenue. “It could be worse as temperature drops, with more orders and terrible weather,” he added.

“NYPD does something similar every year, but it only lasted a few weeks. It’s impossible to really crack down e-bikes. They are everywhere,” said Lu.

19th Precinct declined to release the number of tickets issued on e-bikes or the number of accidents caused by that. But according to Transportation Alternatives, the precinct was responsible for 17 percent of commercial cycling summonses citywide last year, the highest percentage compared to other districts.