He recalls hearing stories about his parents when they first moved to the United States. While working toward a dental degree, Lee’s father worked many odd jobs. Among them was as a delivery worker for a pharmacy.
“My parents worked really hard so I would have opportunities to go to college and become a professor,” he said.
For his dissertation, Lee focused on a participatory action research project with immigrant food delivery workers. He collaborated with Biking Public Project, a group that formed to address and advocate for the needs of diverse cycling communities.
Lee, a cyclist himself, said he came up with the idea because of the overwhelmingly negative stories about delivery workers.
“You never heard the voices of the workers themselves,” he said. “I thought that was really odd.”
He conducted surveys and interviews, documenting the stories of immigrant workers just like his father. Many expressed their frustrations about working conditions.
Then the city began its crackdown on e-bikes, arguing they are a danger on the road. But according to Lee’s research, only a tiny fraction of street accidents involve e-bikes.
“We were able to immediately mobilize this research and data,” said Lee, who is part of a coalition fighting back against the enforcement.
In defending immigrant delivery workers, who need e-bikes to do their job, Lee said they are trying to survive and provide for their families –– just like his father did many years ago.
“People will do jobs and endure terrible conditions so they have hope for their families,” he said. “I think we have to honor that and not hyper-criminalize them.”