Ebikes stand near a noodle shop on 9th Avenue, on...

Ebikes stand near a noodle shop on 9th Avenue, on April 11, 2017. Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

The NYPD plans to start fining the employers of riders caught operating electronic bicycles, the illegal mode of transportation used by some food deliverers to rush orders to customers in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday.

Starting Jan. 1, penalties won’t be imposed only on operators of the e-bikes — the NYPD’s current practice, which imposes a fine of up to $500 and the risk of bike confiscation — with the aim of protecting pedestrians.

Fines against the drivers will remain on the books under de Blasio’s plan, but there will be additional employer civil summonses, which the NYPD officer will send by mail after catching an e-bike rider, said Chief of Patrol Terence A. Monahan: $100 for a first offense and $200 for each additional offense, he said.

“Once we see a bike, the NYPD will confiscate that bike,” de Blasio said. He added: “To get it back you’re going to have to pay more and more fines. My hope is, this will cause business owners to stop using e-bikes.”

Other municipalities allow and regulate the e-bikes, but New York City is going in the opposite direction. Possessing e-bikes, which employ a motor and ease pedaling, is lawful in New York State, but operating them within city limits is illegal.

According to de Blasio’s office, the NYPD has so far in 2017 seized 923 e-bikes, up from the 341 during the same time period in 2016, and issued almost 1,800 summonses to e-bike operators.

Asked about concerns voiced by advocates for the largely immigrant delivery workers who say they need the bikes to help make a living, de Blasio said he must put public safety first and “if they need to use a car, use a car, that’s fine.”

A delivery man stands on 9th Avenue near 53th Street,...

A delivery man stands on 9th Avenue near 53th Street, with an electronic bike, on April 11, 2017. Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

Speaking at a news conference on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, de Blasio referred questions about how many people may have been struck or injured by e-bikes to the NYPD, which later said in an email, “We do not track to this level of specificity.”

As for workers who need the bikes and are older or otherwise disabled, de Blasio said the workers could consider seeking special permission, but “my hope is that they could find some other type of work with that restaurant or business.”

Putting public safety first is “the bottom line,” he added.

Also Thursday, de Blasio called a plan to allow tests by General Motors of driverless cars on city streets “a mistake” and a “danger.” The plan was given the greenlight by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo with what the city said was virtually no consultation with municipal officials. Cuomo’s office has said it gave the city enough notice.

“We’re going to work vigorously to stop it,” de Blasio said.

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