New York City creates space for e-bikes
If you find yourself in Manhattan, Queens or Brooklyn, you’ll very likely encounter an electric bike within seconds. The battery-boasted bikes are widespread in NY City with more than 50,000 registered delivery cyclists. They carry food, documents, laundry, booze or anything else that customers care to order. The city has become a paradise for them.
The central question remains, is this entirely legal? Bill de Blasio, New York city Major, announced in October that the city would crack down on the mass of electric bikes on its streets in reply to safety complaints from citizens. Since then, e-bikes have been technically forbidden. However, on Tuesday, de Blasio instructed the Department of Transportation to relax its ban and approve pedal assist bikes—or bicycles that use rechargeable cells to increase their speeds—as a constitutional means of getting around the city. Still, e-bikes with a motor that can take them faster than 20 mph will remain banned. This way it’s obvious what devices are allowed and the ones that are not.
After de Blasio’s crackdown, the administration faced a backlash. Transit attorneys bemoaned the ruling as a step backward for New York, preventing the city from embracing a form of transportation that’s increasingly attractive in cities worldwide. Meanwhile, immigrant rights organizations claimed that the law was especially punitive to the ones who rely on electric bikes to make some money in the booming delivery industry; a recent wave of relatively cheaper electric bicycles from China had allowed smaller firms to invest in them. The city warned with fines of up to $500 for the cyclists themselves, and fines beginning at $100 for businesses that hired workers who own or use them.
On Tuesday, the same attorneys offered cautious praise for the mayor’s choice, which an alliance of some immigrant rights groups called an essential step in responding to an eruption in demand for food distribution supported by hundreds, thousands of low-wage immigrant workers who transport more than 100,000 meals in New York City every single day.