Despite assurances from Mayor Bill de Blasio, NYPD directives, and impending changes to state law, last year police overwhelmingly penalized delivery workers, not the businesses that employ them, for using e-bikes to do their jobs.
According to the NYPD, only 71 e-bike summonses were issued to businesses in all of 2019, while 1,052 summonses—which carry $500 fines—were issued to e-bike riders. The numbers are similar to those compiled for 2018. That year, 167 summonses were issued to businesses and 1,154 to individuals.
The NYPD also said they confiscated 1,575 e-bikes in 2019, compared with 1,671 in 2018. The number of moving violations issued to e-bike riders in 2019 was not immediately available.
City law explicitly states that employers are "liable" for the e-bike summonses their workers get. Illegal, throttle-powered e-bikes are predominately used by working cyclists, unlike the legal, pedal-assisted e-bikes used by Citi Bike and companies like Amazon. Delivery cyclists tend to be immigrants, many of whom work for little more than $10/hour.
"Those at the top of the food chain need to be held accountable," de Blasio said in October of 2017, when he announced that the NYPD would be cracking down on e-bikes. "That's why instead of merely targeting riders, we're going after businesses that look the other way and leave their workers to shoulder the fine."
In November of 2018, the NYPD issued a memo to all of its uniformed officers, directing them to follow the law and ticket businesses, but stats show they continued to ticket riders, a reality the department has blamed on workers not carrying proper ID.
The mayor's crackdown continued even after state lawmakers passed legislation legalizing throttle-powered e-bikes. That legislation was vetoed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, who then inserted a similar bill into the upcoming state budget. At a press conference on Thursday, Cuomo said he would ask lawmakers to pass it immediately to end the enforcement double-standard.
Asked if the NYPD would continue to ticket delivery cyclists before the state bill passes this year, the Mayor's Office referred us to the NYPD.
"The law is the law and the NYPD continues to enforce vehicle and traffic law offenses committed by the drivers of throttle-powered e-bikes," NYPD spokesperson Al Baker said in a statement. "However, our officers maintain their use of discretion to seize those e-bikes in cases when drivers are riding in a way that jeopardizes the safety of themselves or others and to issue warnings, rather than summonses, to throttle e-bike riders."
The de Blasio administration has never provided any information showing that throttle-powered e-bikes are any more dangerous than pedal-assisted bikes.
“Everyone asks that question, I keep coming back with something that is bluntly, in my view, better than data: it is common sense,” de Blasio said earlier this month. “I have seen them with my own eyes, as have so many people I have talked to all over the city. They go on sidewalks, they go the wrong way down the street, they go too fast.”