Lawmakers host hearing on e-bike, scooter legalization
by Benjamin Fang
Jun 11, 2019 | 1698 views | 0 0 comments | 196 196 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dozens of immigrant delivery workers registered their stories into the official State Senate record last Friday at a public hearing on a bill to legalize electric bikes and scooters.

Nearly all of the 50 testimonies submitted support the legislation, which is being sponsored by State Senator Jessica Ramos and Assemblywoman Nily Rozic.

The lawmakers were joined by state senators John Liu, Toby Ann Stavisky and Timothy Kennedy from Buffalo, who chairs the Transportation Committee, at Flushing Town Hall for the hearing.

Earlier that morning, Ramos and Rozic rallied with the Deliver Justice Coalition, a group of organizations that support the legalization of e-bikes and e-scooters.

“It’s really important that, in the state, for the first time, immigrant delivery workers’ voices and stories will be heard,” Ramos said.

The state senator said she hopes the bill will put an end to the city’s crackdown on immigrant delivery workers, which often leads to $500 tickets and the confiscation of the e-bikes.

The “carbon-free micro-mobility” options also provide alternative modes of transportation that are needed throughout the state, she said.

“We’re doing everything we can to pass this legislation before the end of session,” Ramos said.

With two week left, Rozic added that she’s “very hopeful” that the bill be passed.

Brooklyn Councilman Rafael Espinal, who submitted testimony of his own at the hearing, said hundreds of thousands of workers have been penalized “simply because they were doing their jobs.”

He asserted that e-bikes are just as safe as conventional bikes. He also said e-bikes are better for the environment than gas-powered mopeds, which used to be a favorite among delivery workers.

“I think it’s a backwards approach to continue to penalize folks for using e-bikes,” Espinal said. “I urge the governor to sign these bills and urge the legislature to pass the bills.”

At the hearing, most of the opposition to the legislation came from Manhattan organizations, including the borough’s Community Board 4 and Hudson River Park groups.

The vast majority of testimonies came from delivery workers like Jackie Jiang, a 46-year-old man who has worked in the industry for 15 years. He has spent the last six years using an e-bike to get around midtown Manhattan.

Jiang said he uses an e-bike because it saves time and energy, allowing him to work 10 hours and deliver 50 meals in one day.

But while out on the road, Jiang said he doesn’t only pay attention to traffic. He’s also constantly looking out for police officers who may issue him tickets.

“I have changed my route often, in any direction, to avoid the police,” he said through a translator. “This increases the potential safety hazard for us and for pedestrians.”

A $500 fine is equivalent to losing a week’s worth of income, he said. If he loses his e-bike, that means losing roughly three days of work.

During the e-bike crackdown, Jiang said many of his delivery worker friends have become unemployed or retire. Many now have to “live on government aid,” he said.

“We just want to support our families through our hard work,” Jiang said. “We hope our work can be protected by law.”

Hermelindo Carrillo, another delivery worker, is married and is raising a 14-year-old daughter. For the last three years, Carrillo has been working nearly 48 hours per week, but it’s often not enough.

“With that money, I have to take care of my wife, my daughter and my parents, but this income is not sufficient for my family,” he said through a Spanish translator. “Sometimes, I have to do other work in order to make ends meet.”

Like Jiang, Carrillo described a sense of fear around police officers.

Several e-bike and e-scooter companies also testified before the Transportation Committee last week. Phil Jones, representing the dock-free scooter and e-bike company Lime, said roughly 70 percent of Lime riders in the city identify as non-white.

Sixty-one percent of riders earn $50,000 or less, and 50 percent identify as female, he said.

He added that millions of New Yorkers do not live near mass transit, and those communities tend to be lower-income and more diverse.

“Dock-free bikes and scooters can help close that distance, increase mobility and improve the quality of life for New Yorkers living in transit deserts,” Jones said.
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