On Wednesday morning, nearly 50 people hopped on brand new electric Citi Bikes to demonstrate how easy (and fun!) commuting over the Williamsburg Bridge can be, once the L train shuts down in April of next year. An electric moped service recently launched in Brooklyn, and the Daily News reported that two city councilmembers are drafting legislation to legalize the kind of app-based electric scooters that have swept across cities like Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.. Meanwhile, the NYPD continues to confiscate electric bikes used by immigrant delivery cyclists, issuing them summonses that carry $500 fines for using what is essentially the same kind of technology.

Listen to Christopher Robbins discuss this issue with WNYC's Jami Floyd on All Things Considered:

New York Administrative Code Section 19-176.2 prohibits the use of "motorized scooters" on City streets; that term is defined as:

any wheeled device that has handlebars that is designed to be stood or sat upon by the operator, is powered by an electric motor or by a gasoline motor that is capable of propelling the device without human power and is not capable of being registered with the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles.

The e-bikes favored by delivery cyclists tend to use a throttle, so they are "capable of propelling the device without human power," and are thus illegal.

The pedal-assisted e-bikes put on city streets by Citi Bike and other bikeshare operators propel the rider forward as they pedal, and have technically always been legal. Last month the City made that clear by adopting a tweak to the law that explicitly legalized them. "[T]hrottle-controlled e-bikes continue to be illegal to operate on City streets under State and city law," read the DOT release. The pedal-assisted Citi Bikes have a maximum acceleration speed of 18 mph, but the maximum speed by law for pedal-assisted bikes is 20 mph.

Throttle-controlled e-bikes have maximum speeds of around 24 mph. (In 2011, the Daily News found some cyclists in Prospect Park traveling at a speed of 31 mph, using only their legs.)

The electric scooter carve-out being prepared by Councilmembers Ydanis Rodriguez and Rafael Espinal Jr. removes the word "stood" from 19-176.2, according to Espinal spokesperson Erika Tannor, and does nothing to address throttle-controlled e-bikes, but she cautioned that the legislation was still being drafted.

"The councilman has no intention of continuing to criminalize e-bikes while legalizing e-scooters, it just absolutely doesn't make sense for his agenda and his record on e-bikes," Tannor said. "Council Member Espinal is in support of e-bikes. We'll look into this further before introducing the bill in September."

Do Lee, a member of the #DeliverJusticeCoalition who wrote his PhD thesis in environmental psychology on delivery cyclists at the CUNY Graduate Center, said the City's actions are a "pattern of making decisions to help those who are already privileged, and excluding those who actually need the help the most."

"Mayor de Blasio and the City have created a Tale of Two E-bikes by bending over backwards to give white collar commuters an e-assist while hyper-policing immigrant delivery workers for their e-bike riding for their jobs," Lee said.

Lee told Gothamist that the DOT had scheduled three meetings with the #DeliverJusticeCoalition to discuss ways to help delivery cyclists convert their throttle-assisted e-bikes to pedal-assist, and cancelled three times, most recently at the end of July.

In a statement, Seth Stein, a spokesperson for Mayor de Blasio, said, “In order to increase the transportation options for New Yorkers, including delivery workers, the Mayor clarified DOT rules that pedal-assist bikes are legal in the City. The Administration is currently considering additional actions to help delivery workers transition their throttle e-bikes to pedal-assist.”

The NYPD has yet to present any evidence to suggest that throttle-controlled e-bikes are more dangerous or harm New Yorkers more than traditional bicycles.

"If we want delivery workers to slow down, then we should improve their working conditions, pay better wages, eliminate wage theft," Lee added. "If we're truly trying to be the fairest big city in the world, as the mayor likes to say, we shouldn't be doing this sort of policymaking."

You can read more on New York City's war on e-bikes here.