In 2016, Jing Wang, a CUNY graduate student in film, agreed to help out a friend who was working on a dissertation about the plight of food delivery cyclists in New York City.

During the first interview, the workers, grizzled men in their 50s and 60s, spoke openly about toiling long days to repay smugglers and support their families back home. Now, the city was making their lives even harder by fining them for riding throttle-assisted e-bikes. With fines as high as $500 per ticket and possible seizure of the e-bike, a single summons could wipe out a significant portion of a deliveryman’s salary.

As she watched the men speak about their experiences, she teared up. She also thought to herself: “This is very visual and powerful.”

Soon after, Wang returned with her camera. With help from a crowdfunding effort that raised around $8,000, she began documenting the men’s lives and their efforts to organize against the city’s policy on e-bikes. Closely following their conversations on WeChat, a Chinese messaging app, she said she often felt like a reporter, rushing to the scene to capture moments — such as police crackdowns or a blizzard — as they broke.

Now, the 37-year-old filmmaker has brought a documentary titled “A Winter With Delivery Workers” to the Museum of the City of New York. It is part of an exhibit that runs through October 6th on New York’s 200-year biking history called “Cycling in the City.”

The five-minute film opens with a Chinese deliveryman navigating the city streets through a snowstorm, his bike wheels completely encrusted in snow. As the men talk about the hardships of their jobs and take out the crinkled costly summonses they have accrued, the human impact of the city’s ongoing war against e-bikes is brought to life.

In New York City, throttle-assisted bikes, the ones preferred by delivery workers are illegal. In 2018, police officers issued 669 e-bike tickets, according to the NYPD. Although the city had pledged to go punish businesses rather than delivery workers, there is evidence that the NYPD is still fining them and confiscating their bikes.

Do Lee, the dissertation’s author who is now a visiting lecturer in urban studies at Queens College, said the documentary challenges the stereotype of “the recreational cyclist with spandex.” During his research, Do became an organizer at Bike Public Project, an advocacy group which submitted the film for inclusion in the museum’s exhibit.

“There’s a long history of working cyclists going back to the telegraph boys,” he said. “This is the latest iteration of it.”

As an embedded filmmaker, Wang quickly found herself becoming an advocate for the workers, at one point, grabbing a microphone during a Town Hall with Mayor Bill de Blasio and translating their complaints. “I had to do it,” she said. The city translator was not getting their points across, according to Wang.

Wang said she felt that she had little choice but to get involved. When she first came to the United States, she lived in a tenement apartment in Chinatown, where the workers she profiled are based. Most are from Fujian, a southeastern province in China. “I’m not a cold white male filmmaker,” she said. “I’m from the Chinese immigrant community.”

Wang noted that the men were excited to be in a film. A few have messaged her to say they went to the museum to see it. That a piece about working class immigrants is being showcased in an "uptown, educated museum setting" is important, she said. During the filmmaking process, she wondered how men who are an integral part of the city's eco-system — ferrying food to busy, hungry New Yorkers — could also be so invisible. In the end, she said, “It’s really about bridging the gap.”

Her hope is to raise more money so that she can finish a feature-length documentary that can be submitted to film festivals. As an Asian woman, the opportunities in the industry are limited, she said.