DOT Launches Pilot Program to Combat Bad Bike Deliverymen

By Emily Frost on June 28, 2012 5:46pm 

Despite an enforcement campaign, not all Upper West Side restaurants follow the law. City rules say delivery riders aren't allowed on sidewalks.
Despite an enforcement campaign, not all Upper West Side restaurants follow the law. City rules say delivery riders aren't allowed on sidewalks.
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DNAinfo/Leslie Albrecht

UPPER WEST SIDE — The city's Department of Transportation plans to hire additional inspectors to go from restaurant to restaurant on the Upper West Side, educating employers and bike deliverymen about safety regulations in the wake of a growing public outcry about out-of-control deliverymen, City Councilwoman Gale Brewer said.

The DOT pilot program — which came about after a push by Brewer and the Upper West Side's Community Board 7 — will target rogue restaurant delivery bikers who unleash a flood of 311 calls from residents by riding the wrong way, ignoring safety rules and refusing to wear clothing that identify them as a commercial rider.

Brewer said the DOT inspectors would be deployed for six months starting this summer to do education and inspections in the area, which Brewer and her team have been doing for years.

"We have to work in a constructive fashion and in a way that's also good for small businesses, because people do want their food quickly," Brewer said. 

Brewer said she hopes to pass legislation this fall that changes some of the rules around fines for bike delivery people and other regulations. Currently, the biker is fined for riding illegally, not his or her employer.

The DOT did not respond to requests for comment.

Citywide, complaints about lawbreaking delivery bike riders are nothing new. Residents complain that delivery bikers ride on sidewalks, run red lights, race down side streets and refuse to wear reflectors at night, all of which are illegal under New York City law.

Community Board 7 has long tried to curtail dangerous drivers by reaching out to the New York State Restaurant Association and making pleas to the Department of Health, in hopes it might consider downgrading non-compliant restaurants' letter grades.

CB7 and its counterpart Community Board 8 on the Upper East Side have also denied liquor licenses or considered denying sidewalk cafes as a weapon against bad biking behavior.

Brewer and Community Board 7 have also tried a proactive approach to the problem of lawbreaking delivery bike drivers, joining police to go door-to-door to restaurants to inform them about the laws of the road.

"I have gone up and down Amsterdam and Columbus to talk to restaurants [about bike safety and regulations]," Brewer said, saying she and others have passed out fliers in English and Spanish and posters with biking rules.

She added that the campaign was most successful when she had a police officer from the 20th Precinct with her.

"Owners respond to the badge," she said. 

One of the things that most frustrates people who see disobedient bikers is that "they don’t know who to complain to because they don’t know the name of the restaurant the biker works for," Brewer said.

On Monday Brewer and CB7 held a meeting in both English and Spanish for restaurants and delivery people to discuss bike safety for delivery riders. About 50 restaurant owners and 20 delivery people showed up, Brewer said.

Lisa Sladkus of the bicycle advocacy group Upper West Side Streets Renaissance urged officials and the community to look at one of the roots of the problem — that the more deliveries workers make, the more they get paid.

"These workers are riding many miles, working long hours, for low wages," she said.

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