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Electric Bikes Can Help Immigrant Workers. But In New York, They're Banned.
Jan 28, 2018

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration has cracked down on the bikes, which some say are a public safety hazard.

Any new delivery worker will tell you his first order of business is to save for the one thing that can make life easier — an electric bike.

That’s what Liu Li Qiang did after arriving in New York City from Liaoning, China, around seven years ago. He said it could take up to two months to put away the funds needed to buy a motorized bike, some costing $1,500 or more.

“Delivery men definitely regard electric bikes as a tool for survival,” the 45-year-old Liu said, speaking in Mandarin.

E-bikes have indeed been a boon to a delivery workforce in New York City that, according to advocates, is aging, though definitive data is unavailable. With workers in their 40s, 50s and even 60s, an electric bike is seen as a smart investment as businesses expand their delivery zones, requiring delivery workers to traverse greater distances in less time, advocates say.

But there’s a hitch. E-bikes, some capable of travelling more than 20 miles per hour with a combination of human and motor power, are banned in New York City since they’re considered “motorized scooters” under the city’s administrative code.

Democratic New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has cracked down on the bikes, which some city and state elected officials say pose a clear hazard to public safety.

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