Tale of Two E-Bikes

In April 2018, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City (NYC) announced that the City would allow people to ride pedal-assist electric bicycles (e-bikes) while continuing to police throttle e-bikes. The Mayor claimed that this would “increase options for delivery workers,” but because food delivery workers most commonly use Arrow e-bikes with both pedal-assist and throttle functions, their current e-bikes remain criminalized. The Mayor and NYPD justifies the criminalization of “dangerous” throttle e-bikes in the name of Vision Zero, yet they cannot provide any public safety evidence such as crash, injury, or fatality data (there is none) as justification. NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Polly Trottenberg has stated that the safety hazard of e-bikes is “anecdotal” and that she does not have “great statistics” to support such claims.

Describing this new policy, Pedro Rojas, an immigrant Latino delivery worker said, “This new policy is unfair… The city is going to permit only some electric bikes, but not the ones that we, the workers, use.”

With this policy shift, we have seen the racist and classist spectacle of a Tale of Two E-bikes with NYC’s government celebrating the introduction of e-bikes for CitiBike and other corporate bikeshare options like Jump for privileged white-collar commuters while the NYPD continues to hunt for e-bikes used by food delivery workers, who are most commonly Asian and Latino immigrants.

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