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Online Takeout Site Seamless Joins Bike Safety Initiative

By Julie Shapiro | August 3, 2011 7:19pm

TRIBECA — New Yorkers ordering takeout online may soon have to make a bigger decision than simply whether to get their dressing on the side.

Seamless, one of the city's top online food-ordering websites, is working with a bicycle safety foundation to allow diners to see which restaurants have pledged to train their deliverymen to follow the rules of the road.

Customers who feel strongly about bike safety could then choose to support those businesses, which may soon bear a small bicycle icon by their name, said Kelsey O'Neal Flittner, spokeswoman for Seamless, which recently changed its name from SeamlessWeb.

"We’re happy to be working…in support of safety initiatives that benefit the entire local community," Flittner said in an email.

The Seamless bike safety initiative is just one piece of the larger 5 to Ride campaign, which Nancy Gruskin started earlier this year after her husband, Stuart Gruskin, was hit and killed by a cyclist in Midtown in 2009.

The campaign asks businesses to take a five-point "Pedal Pledge," promising to train their delivery bikers to: Put pedestrians first, stop at every red light, ride in the right direction, stay on the asphalt, and pick one lane and stick to it.

Businesses that sign onto the pledge will receive an orange bike decal to put in their windows, along with a certificate and, soon, recognition on the Seamless website.

"People can look for the decal and make sure their favorite restaurant is taking bike safety seriously," said Gruskin, who lives in New Jersey with her 15-year-old twins.

"It's a very positive way to just ask cyclists to follow the rules. We're not against cycling. Cycling is fine — just follow the rules."

Gruskin had never thought much about bike safety until the afternoon of April 28, 2009, when she got a phone call that she will never forget.

Her husband, a business executive, had left his office for lunch and was crossing 43rd Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues when a delivery biker pedaling against traffic plowed into him.

Stuart Gruskin slammed his head against the street as he fell, setting off swelling in his brain. He was able to speak for the first few minutes following the accident, but he soon lost consciousness and, after an unsuccessful operation, died several days later. He was 51 years old.

The cyclist did not face criminal charges, Nancy Gruskin said.

In the midst of her mourning, Gruskin, a music educator, decided to start a foundation in her husband's memory, and she soon began advocating for bicycle safety. She has testified at City Council hearings about the need for bike safety, and she thought of the idea for 5 to Ride as a way of getting more people involved in the campaign.

More than two-dozen New York businesses have signed the pledge so far, including restaurants such as 'wichcraft and Hale & Hearty, which have multiple locations in Manhattan. Many are located in TriBeCa, where community-minded businesses have eagerly agreed to participate.

"We didn't think twice — we just said yes," said Gina Buiuc, manager at Gigino Trattoria on Greenwich Street.

Gigino does about 100 deliveries a day, and Buiuc said she regularly reminds her riders to follow the rules. She also warns delivery bikers that they will be responsible for paying any tickets they receive.

"It's something we should all be aware of," Buiuc said. "In a neighborhood with lots of kids, they really have to pay attention."

Over the next few months, Gruskin hopes to work with neighborhood volunteers to get dozens more restaurants to sign onto 5 to Ride's Pedal Pledge. She also wants to work with Seamless to hold large training sessions to introduce the program to many restaurants at once.

"The event is in its early planning stages," said Flittner, the Seamless spokeswoman, "but we are committed to getting our partners and the Gruskin foundation together, in person, to educate and provide an immediate opportunity for them to participate in 5 to Ride."

But even with so many initiatives under way, Gruskin said the work still has not brought her peace.

"We're not there yet," she said. "There's just too much more to do."