UPPER WEST SIDE — Renegade restaurant delivery cyclists beware.
The Department of Transportation announced the launch of a new enforcement division Friday charged with educating restaurants on the rules of the road for delivery cyclists and slapping them with fines for failing to follow them, as originally reported by DNAinfo.com.
Beginning Monday, a six-person team of inspectors will begin crisscrossing the Upper West and Upper East sides, handing out brochures and posters and educating businesses that use delivery cyclists about existing regulations.
Under the current law, businesses must provide their cyclists with safety information and safety equipment, including helmets, bells and lights, as well as a shirt or vest identifying their restaurant and an ID number — but many fail to follow the rules.
After six months, the inspectors, which have been deputized by the NYPD with special enforcement powers, will begin a crackdown, slapping restaurants that defy the rules with $100 to $300 fines.
“The laws are simple and the laws are not new,” Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan told reporters at a press conference outside of a Lenny’s sandwich shop on the Upper West Side, which sets especially strict rules for its bikers, forcing them to wear helmets and vests at all times.
“New Yorkers want everything in a New York minute, but businesses that depend on bike deliveries can’t cut corners on safety,” Sadik-Khan said.
Bronx City Councilman James Vacca, chair of the council's Transportation Committee, who was on hand for the announcement, slammed Sadik-Khan and the city for too little, too late. He said the city has failed to enforce the rules up until now, allowing the streets to become what he described as “a wild, wild West.”
"For too long in this city we've not had enforcement of existing laws... For too long we’ve hid our head in the sand when it came to this problem,” he said, vowing to pass new legislation to add teeth to the laws by giving new enforcement powers to the DOT.
“I’m going to make sure that the laws we’ve had on the books all these years are finally enforced,” he said,
Sadik-Khan seemed taken aback.
“We’re here today announcing the new safety inspectors that are going to be going out to enforce the law,” she said.
Delivery cyclists are a frequent cause of complaints across the city, especially in restaurant-heavy neighborhoods like Hell's Kitchen and the Upper West Side. Local council members, community board leaders and police precincts have been engaged in similar education efforts for years. But Vacca estimated that no more than 10 percent of delivery workers are currently following existing rules.
Under the new arrangement, the NYPD will continue to issue fines directly to individual delivery cyclists for violations such as riding on the sidewalk, running red lights, or failing to wear helmets, officials said.
The NYPD issued 14,392 violations to cyclists last year, up from 3,874 in 2010.
East Side City Councilman Dan Garodnick praised the new strategy and said that restaurants have a responsibility to reel in their drivers while providing speedy service to hungry New Yorkers.
"New Yorkers believer that they have a constitutional right to great food delivered right to the door while it is still hot. And they are right," he said. "At the same time, this cannot mean that we're going to compromise our safety in the process.
“Navigating our city streets is difficult and dangerous enough without the added danger of cyclists weaving in and out of traffic and on sidewalks and going through red lights,” he said.
Upper West Side City Councilwoman Gale Brewer, who has personally visited dozens of restaurants in the neighborhood to try to get them to follow the rules, agreed.
“It will be a terrific asset,” she said.