NYC's War On E-Bikes Takes Toll On Immigrant Delivery Workers

Yang Hai described the patrons of the Upper East Side Chinese restaurant he works for as “people with low incomes, that’s who I deliver to most often,” he says in Mandarin. “The doormen, the security guards, construction workers, nurses, the people that work in this neighborhood."<br/>

Zhu Xian, 31, fixes a broken wheel in between deliveries from a restaurant on 14th Street.<br/>

The temperature, which was hovering around freezing, dips into the low twenties and teens. Zhu wears two pairs of long johns underneath his jeans, and two coats. “It gets so cold that my shoes don’t keep me warm, so we go to the basement and use plastic bags to cover our socked feet."

Zhu is one of four deliverymen who ferry between 100 and 150 orders to customers over the course of a typical day. Here, orders are sorted roughly by the cardinal directions, and the delivery cyclists take as many as they can. A clerk estimated that between 80 and 90 percent of the orders come through Seamless.<br/>

A delivery cyclist in Midtown.<br/>

Chen Qixiong, 56, returns from making a delivery in a Midtown lobby. He estimates that his annual salary is around $19,000. "I’m doing such grueling work, such hard work, it’s so tiring and then we have to contend with the tickets and the fines," he says in Mandarin.<br/>

"For us delivery guys, we don’t make that much money," Chen says. "To fine us $500, that’s a whole week’s worth of money gone.” <br/>

Delivery cyclists use WeChat to alert each other about where police seem to be confiscating their e-bikes. Here, a group of delivery cyclists in Midtown check a thread about a recent confiscation.<br/>

A delivery cyclist in Midtown struggles to secure all his orders (at least ten) onto his bicycle before setting out.<br/>

Delivery cyclist Dong Shixiang, 39, eats with his colleagues at their Upper West Side restaurant before his shift on Super Bowl Sunday.<br/>

Dong estimates that he's been pulled over by the police five or six times over the last year. One of the tickets was for "weaving" in and out of traffic. “The cars are about to run into me! Of course I had to get out of the way," he says in Mandarin. "I have to avoid getting hit!”<br/>

Dong and his colleagues take a quick nap before the dinner shift.<br/>

"Usually on a rainy day it's very, very busy. Today is an extremely off day,” Dong said.<br/>

Yang Hai's daughter is studying physics at Arizona State University, and on November, he took a month off to visit her and sightsee. He saw the Grand Canyon and went to Las Vegas, though he didn’t gamble. "I just took a look,” he said.<br/>

Yang navigates through traffic on the Upper East Side.<br/>

A delivery cyclist dries off his freezing, soaked gloves on a radiator at his restaurant along 14th Street.<br/>