De Blasio down on push to legalize e-bikes, e-scooters

A delivery man stands on Ninth Avenue near 53th Street, with an e-bike.
A delivery man stands on Ninth Avenue near 53th Street, with an e-bike. Photo Credit: Agaton Strom

Mayor Bill de Blasio is no fan of e-mobility.

De Blasio on Wednesday continued to disparage throttle e-bikes typically used by delivery workers — citing “real safety problems” — as city lawmakers introduced a package of bills to legalize and regulate the bicycles as well as e-scooters.

“I am seeing too many problems with e-bikes already and that is why we cracked down on them,” de Blasio told reporters Wednesday, referring to his fall 2017 ticket and confiscation blitz against the bicycles.

De Blasio’s stance has drawn sharp criticism from fellow Democrats, left-leaning community groups and transit advocates, who have argued that his enforcement crackdown is harmful to workers — many of them immigrants — who typically use the bicycles for low-wage, physically demanding delivery jobs and not based on data. The city has no statistics on the number of crashes, injuries or deaths caused by the bicycles.

Some have framed the administration’s approach to cycling as classist: the city clarified its laws to welcome pedal-assist e-bikes for bike-share companies, while still taking away throttle versions of e-bikes from delivery workers.

Joe Cutrufo, a spokesman at Transportation Alternatives, said the mayor “doesn’t seem to understand” that throttle e-bikes can be alluring to a broad swath of people who wouldn’t otherwise ride a traditional bicycle: workers who don’t want to show up to jobs sweaty; riders who might not feel fit enough to bike; or those looking to travel further or run errands with small cargo.

“We have a lot of different modes that are competing for space in the city and many of them take up a lot more space than e-bikes and scooters,” said Cutrufo. “These are space efficient alternatives and, in a congested city like ours, the mayor should be getting on board.”

Council Speaker Corey Johnson said he was “excited” about the bill package, which was introduced by Brooklyn Councilman Rafael Espinal, adding that he has a “real sympathy for the delivery workers who are being hit with tickets while they’re just trying to do their job.”

The most deadly vehicles in New York City are trucks and buses and cars,” Johnson said. “And we need to break the car culture in New York City and we need to enable cyclists and pedestrians to get around the city in a safe way.”

De Blasio appeared to leave the door open for compromise.

“There may be a way to figure out how to keep e-bikes safe and keep the community safe for e-bikes,” he said.

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