A restaurant delivery cyclist had two of his e-bike tickets dismissed last month after his attorney pointed out that the law requires the cyclist's employer to pay the fine.

Yili Liu was delivering food for SoHo Sushi on his e-bike when he received two citations in March and April for operating a "motorized scooter" on city streets, which carries a $500 fine for each infraction. At an Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings [OATH] proceeding in July, Legal Aid attorney Steven Wasserman argued that while Liu may have been operating an illegal "motorized scooter," 10-157(k) of the City's administrative code states that


A business using a bicycle for commercial purposes shall be liable for any violation of section 19-176.2(b) committed by any person operating a motorized scooter on behalf of such business.

The hearing officer in the case agreed, and dismissed both of the tickets.

"If they are delivering food at the time that they're stopped on the bike then the business owners have to indemnify them, they have to be responsible for the illegal use of the e-bike," Wasserman told Gothamist.

If this argument sounds familiar, it's because Mayor Bill de Blasio used it himself almost a year ago, when he held a press conference on the Upper West Side announcing his crackdown on e-bikes.

"Those at the top of the food chain need to be held accountable," the mayor said. "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."

But in reality, the NYPD seemingly favors ticketing individual delivery workers over the businesses they work for. According to Streetsblog, which was the first outlet to report on Liu's case, so far this year the NYPD has confiscated 541 e-bikes, handed out 805 moving violations, and issued 345 e-bike citations as of July 18th; businesses received just 138 violations.

"We've had a half a dozen or so police officers testify at OATH hearings, and they just kind of shrug their shoulders— 'Yeah, we gotta serve the business owners,'" Wasserman said. "But they're not doing it. We're able to search the database of OATH, and the number of summonses that are served on the businesses is just dwarfed by the number of summonses that are served on the cyclists themselves."

Representatives from the NYPD did not immediately respond to our requests for comment.

“Without discussing the particulars of the case, as a matter of policy, the Mayor has prioritized enforcement against businesses, instead of individuals," Seth Stein, a spokesman for de Blasio, said in an email.

Wasserman said the hearing officer's decision has "very little force as precedent."

"If the restaurants are really being held responsible for making sure that their deliverers are on legal bikes, I think very soon they would start providing some of them with the pedal-assist bikes rather than with the throttle bikes," Wasserman said, referring to the kind of e-bikes that the City recently clarified were legal.

"If the goal is really to promote public safety and try to get more of these pedal assist bikes on the road, that's the way to do it. The business owners, they have the money. For two or three of these $500 fines, you could actually buy a pedal-assist bike."

On The Brian Lehrer show on Friday, the mayor said that while he could not present any evidence that the throttle e-bikes were more dangerous than any other bike, "there is a very consistent view that they’re too fast for what they are being used for."

Asked if he would be willing to help delivery cyclists convert their throttle e-bikes to the pedal-assist, de Blasio replied, "People went and got them and they made money with. Fine, that’s in the past, but I am not comfortable at first blush with the notion of subsidizing people who did something that actually was not legal to begin with, and creates some real problems." The mayor made no mention of business owners.