Chinese Delivery Workers Will Be Hurt by E-bike Enforcement

Rallying at City Hall in support of the e-bike delivery men on Dec. 18 (Photo via World Journal)

When you get your hot food from the delivery worker in the cold winter, you may not know that on average, he or she has to make 60 deliveries on routes that total 60 miles a day. But the city has been seizing their electronic bikes and issuing tickets to whoever dares to use them. Mayor de Blasio announced recently that enforcement will be tightened in January, and the city will require employers to pay the fines for their delivery men. But the delivery men all shake their heads and are worried that their lives will be harsher next year.

[On Dec. 18, the Asian American Federation, in partnership with the Biking Public Project and Transportation Alternatives, held an E-Bike Rally to Protect Immigrant Food Delivery Workers on the steps of City Hall.]

“I’ve been working as a delivery man in New York for seven years. I work five to six days per week and 12 hours per day. I deliver 50 to 60 orders, cover 100 miles and serve more than 100 people,” said Liqiang Liu, who came to the U.S. from Shenyang, China about seven or eight years ago. “I’ve never taken a day off, not during severe weather nor sickness. My main income is the tips.” Liu said e-bikes are indispensable tools for delivery men. They have to spend $1,800 or so to buy the bike and about $100 per month on the maintenance. “When the police take our bikes away and give us a $500 ticket, we have to take three days off to go to the court, take the bike back and repair it. Thus our loss is more than $1,000,” said Liu. “I got three tickets today, which means I will be losing $3,000.”

“Many delivery men are new immigrants who struggle to make ends meet,” said Liu. “The reason I came to the U.S. to be a delivery man is that my mother in China is in her 80s and paralyzed. This is the only way that I can make enough money to pay for her medical and health care expenses.” Liu said when the city tightens enforcement in January, 80% of his colleagues may lose their jobs. “E-bikes are just like cars, they themselves are not a threat to public safety. It is the lack of regulation codes that leaves everyone at risk,” said Liu. “So please don’t ban e-bikes. Legalize them and supervise them.”

Hui Lin, a deliveryman working in downtown Manhattan, said the Mayor’s idea of requiring employers to pay for the fines won’t work. “Employers won’t pay. They would just fire us (when we get a ticket) and hire new delivery men,” said Lin. “Eventually, we still have to pay the fine out of our own pockets because it is our names that’s on the tickets.”

Midi Zhu said police officers from the 5th precinct and the 1st precinct in downtown Manhattan are particularly aggressive on e-bike enforcement. “They pulled away a dozen or so people just in two days recently. Whenever they see an e-bike, they make sure you get a ticket,” the delivery man said. Zhu said he was once stopped by the police when he crossed the road on an e-bike during the yellow light. “The police officer stopped me and said: ‘Look back now. Isn’t it a red light?’ Then I got a ticket with a $500 fine. That’s what I make in a whole week,” said Zhu.

According to the statistics of The Biking Public Project, New York Department of Police pulled away 994 e-bikes and issued 1,721 tickets with more than $10,000 fines to riders. Among the tickets, 892 were for a “moving violation.”

“It is clear that the city’s e-bike enforcement is anti-immigrant, anti-labor and anti-road safety,” said Do J. Lee, a scholar from City University of New York and the head of The Biking Public Project. “Many deliverymen have injuries left by previous traffic accidents or robberies. And their work is particularly busy in the winter. They need their e-bikes,” said Lee.

Margaret Chin, the City Council member for District 1, said her office conducted a survey of delivery men before and found most of them are between 50 to 60 years old and work eight to 12 hours per day. “The Mayor should look at the issue from a broader perspective. The interest of these hard-working delivery men should not be overlooked,” said Chin. “The city shouldn’t only try to ban e-bikes. Rather it should push for the legalization of the vehicles. The fact is that everyone needs food delivery, and the customers always want their food to be delivered as quickly as possible. Now the delivery men would like to apply for licenses to ride e-bikes. The State government should pass laws that allow them to do so.”

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