E-Legality: Tech Companies, Immigrant Delivery Workers, and Electric Micro-Mobilities

Authors: Do Lee*, Queens College
Topics: Urban Geography, Ethnicity and Race, Transportation Geography
Keywords: mobility, participatory geographies, policing, labor, immigration, cycling
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Washington 3, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

In New York City (NYC), food delivery cyclists ride streets all day and night to bring hot food to New Yorkers. These working cyclists are often Latino or Asian male immigrants who experience unique vulnerabilities. Simultaneously, third-party tech companies (e.g. Uber Eats, Seamless/Grubhub, Caviar, etc.) are rapidly expanding the gig economy in delivery work. Through an approach of participatory action research, this work partnered with mostly Chinese and Latinx male immigrant food delivery cyclists in NYC to examine and name the systematic and intersectional conditions, oppressions, and traumas that produce the mobility of food delivery workers. Interlocking systems of human migration, capital flows of food delivery, the informal economy, and car-centric urban streets produce working conditions of precarity, speed, and disposability for delivery workers. To resist disposability and to speed up, immigrant delivery workers ride electric bikes (e-bikes). This mobility stigmatizes immigrant workers as uncontrolled men of color in white spaces, which represents dangerous intrusions of white social conceptions of security, borders, and order. Accordingly, NYC has shaped its commercial cycling and e-bike laws along racial and class lines to exclude immigrant delivery workers from legality and subject them to punitive hyper-surveillance and policing. At the same time, in the name of a transportation crisis, NYC is legalizing and welcoming the corporate colonization (e.g. Lyft/Motivate, Jump, Bird, etc.) of electric micro-mobilities such as pedal-assist e-bikes and e-scooters. This production and segregation of e-legality demonstrates the tensions and conflicts of capital circulation in neoliberal cities that require both security and speed.

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