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Electric street bikes are actually illegal, but your food delivery depends on them

By Clayton Guse

Last week, NYPD officers touted the seizure of nearly 250 electronic bicycles in Manhattan, noting that the popular means of transportation for Seamless delivery drivers and messengers across the city is actually illegal. 

"Electric bikes are illegal," tweeted 7th Precinct commanding officer Steven Hellman, who said that officers were out issuing summonses and confiscating scores of the two-wheeled machines last Wednesday.

Deputy Inspector Mark Iocco later claimed in a tweet that "pedestrians, bikers and motorists are safer" because of the crackdown, claiming that the move was in line with Mayor Bill de Blasio's highly-publicized "Vision Zero" campaign, which aims to make traffic deaths in the city a thing of the past. 

The fight over electric bikes in New York is nothing new. The City Council banned them back in 2004, despite the fact that they are legal under federal law so long as their maximum speed is less than 20 miles per hour. Since then, the police department has regularly cracked down on riders zipping around on the unsanctioned vehicles. 

In terms of working toward's de Blasio's goal of reducing traffic deaths, cracking down on cyclists probably isn't the best way to go. According to the city's data portal, there were more than 47,000 reported motor vehicle collisions from the start of 2017 through March 24. Only 255 of those involved bicycles. 

Sure, it's easy to get irritated when a delivery guy zips in front of you out of nowhere while you're crossing the street. And sure, the hum emitted from many electric bikes sounds like a swarm of bees. But the bikes have become an integral part of the city. From expediting your midnight sushi delivery to keeping a countless number of people employed, the buzzing bikes are, by and large, a good thing for New York.


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