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Delivery workers who bike around NYC need to be protected, advocates say

Transit advocates, workers and elected officials called on Mayor Bill de Blasio to help convert deliver workers' e-bikes so they comply with the law.
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City Council Member Margaret Chin spoke at the gathering at City Hall on Monday in support of more protections for NYC's delivery workers. Photo: @CM_MargaretChin/Twitter

Bike advocates gathered at City Hall on Monday to call on Mayor Bill de Blasio to do more to protect delivery workers who cycle around New York City for their jobs.

"I've been given many fees and fines just for doing my job," one delivery worker named Clemente said at the City Hall gathering. "We need the support of the city so we can be able to convert our e-bikes to comply with the laws. We're asking the city not to leave workers behind."

Delivery workers, elected officials and advocates from groups like Transportation Alternatives, Make the Road New York and Biking Public Project spoke out against what they’ve called a “crackdown” on how delivery workers commute around New York.

Earlier in April, de Blasio announced that the city’s transportation department would begin to clarify that pedal-assist bicycles are legal to operate, whereas throttle electric bikes, or e-bikes, which can travel over 20 miles per hour, are not allowed on city streets.

This move harms the city’s delivery workers, advocates argue, as most of them use e-bikes. Some delivery workers have reported receiving as many as 14 tickets in one day.

The de Blasio administration needs to create a “legal framework” and an assistance program, advocates say, to help these low-wage delivery workers convert their bikes to be in accordance with the law.

Criminalizing deliver workers who are not immediately able to convert their e-bikes also disproportionately harms New York’s immigrant community, said City Council Member Margaret Chin.

The city has also “turned a blind eye” to these e-bikes for years, transit advocates say, allowing city bike shops to sell throttle e-bikes while not explaining their legality. 

“While the city's clarification on pedal-assist bikes provides some immediate relief for some delivery workers, we need the city to be an active partner,” Chin said on Twitter, “in making sure that the majority of delivery workers can afford to convert their e-bikes to be in compliance.”