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Crackdown on Deliverymen Forces Hungry New Yorkers to Wait Longer for Food

By James Fanelli | August 20, 2012 6:47am

NEW YORK CITY — The food better be worth the wait.

When the city begins a planned crackdown in January on commercial cyclists who flout traffic rules, food-delivery times — and hunger pangs — will likely shoot up.

The city's Department of Transportation advised restaurants to start providing accurate delivery times to customers as their bicyclists will need to obey all traffic rules — or face stiff fines.

At forums about the upcoming enforcement push, DOT officials have handed out literature explaining safety requirements and encouraging restaurants to factor in stop lights and one-way streets into deliveries.

"Cyclists may engage in unsafe behavior in order to deliver meals too quickly," the handout said. "When you tell your customer how long a delivery order will take, build in time for your employees to stop at red lights and stop signs and ride the correct ways on one-way streets."

In July the city began an education campaign to prep restaurants, and in January the city will ramp up its enforcement of traffic rules for commercial cyclists.

Agents from the DoT's Highway Inspection and Quality Assurance Division will fan out in Manhattan and eventually throughout the city, ensuring food-delivery cyclists wear required safety gear, have proper identification and follow traffic rules. 

That means customers ordering in should summon extra patience since the normally speedy commercial cyclists will face $100 to $300 fines if they fly through stop signs or go the wrong direction on one-way streets.

"If you say that it's going to be there in 10 minutes, but it's really 15 or 20, you're putting so much pressure on the delivery cyclist," a DoT official told restaurant owners and staff at a forum on the Upper West Side on Aug. 14.

"It's going to be doubly hard for that guy not to run the red light or go through the stop sign or ride the bike up a one-way street.

"Business being what it is, competition being what it is, we don't want to hurt your business. On the other hand, keeping your bicyclists safe and out of harm's way saves you money and lost time."

Many restaurants say the new rules are a mouthful and will take some time to digest.

"For us, it's fine, but the customers don't understand," said Mariano, a manager at the Upper West Side Italian restaurant Coppola's, which has five delivery guys and covers a 10-block radius.

He said it will take customers a few weeks to get the message.

"They live a few blocks down and they think it's going to be 20 minutes, but it ends up taking 30. They get upset," he said.

"But what are they going to do? They call the restaurant next door, it will say the same thing."

Under the new requirements, food-delivery cyclists must wear helmets and reflective vests emblazoned with their restaurants' name and a unique three-digit number. They must also carry an picture ID card with their name, their three-digit number and their restaurant's name.

DOT officials have also warned that commercial cyclists using electric bikes will be ticketed. The bicycles cannot be registered by the state Department of Motor Vehicles and are prohibited in the city, officials say.

"I don't know why the city wants to ban the electric bikes," said Jimmy Chen, 40, a manager at Raku - It's Japanese II on West 76th Street.

Chen said his delivery team spends five hours a day making deliveries. Without the electric bike, they'll tire out quicker and the deliveries will get slower, he said.

"With the electric bike, they wouldn't be so tired," Chen said.