Street Wars: Have E-Bikes Made New York City a ‘Nightmare’?

Elijah Orlandi knows what many New Yorkers think about delivery workers on e-bikes: They ride too fast. They zigzag in and out of traffic and bike lanes — sometimes going the wrong direction altogether. They materialize on sidewalks, idle in groups and block the paths of pedestrians. They risk colliding with people, pets and cars in their rush to get where they’re going.

“There are scenarios where people have the right to be upset,” said Orlandi, who lives in the Bronx and has been making e-bike deliveries for Grubhub — in addition to his 9-to-5 job — since October. He has seen e-bike riders “swerving in between cars and all that kind of stuff.”

But Orlandi is also hoping for compassion. “People got to understand, we’re working,” he said. Delivery apps, he noted, keep track of how quickly workers make their drop-offs — and ding them if they take too long.

“Sometimes you’ll be going somewhere and Grubhub will send you another order, and then no matter what you do, you’re going to be late,” he said. “So that’s why you’ll see a lot of people rushing.”

Of all the new kinds of vehicles and obstacles on New York City’s busy streets and sidewalks, electric bicycles, which proliferated during the coronavirus pandemic, draw perhaps the sharpest opinions.

Delivery riders were considered “essential workers” during the lockdown, and the speed and ease of e-bikes made them attractive to deliveristas whisking food through the rain. The lockdown eventually lifted, but the popularity of home delivery — and electric bikes — remained.

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