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Restaurants Get 3,000 Tix for Breaking Bike Laws in Just Four Months

By James Fanelli | August 14, 2013 7:37am
 The city DOT started issuing fines in April to restaurants whose delivery workers broke bike rules.
DOT Cracks Down on Delivery Bicyclists
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UPPER WEST SIDE — In the past four months, the city has been taking down restaurants with rogue delivery riders, slapping them with nearly $300,000 in fines for breaking bicycle laws, records show.

A team of six Department of Transportation inspectors has rolled into neighborhoods in every borough but Staten Island, handing out violations to businesses that don’t properly outfit their delivery employees and bikes.

The inspectors have issued 2,965 tickets to more than 700 restaurants since April 24, according to city records. The blitz — an average of 27 tickets a day — is part of the city’s effort to ramp-up enforcement of commercial cycling rules following more than six months of education outreach.

Manhattan received the most violations, with its restaurants getting hit with 1,821. The majority of those penalties went to the Upper West Side, the Upper East Side and the East Village.

Brooklyn had the second most violations — 608 — followed by Queens with 297 and the Bronx with 239.

The restaurants that received summonses ranged from pizza chains like Domino’s to neighborhood staples like Zaytoon’s in Carroll Gardens — and even crowd-pleasers like BLT Burger in the West Village.

The restaurant with the most violations was Wok N’ Roll. Inspectors socked the Upper East Side Chinese eatery with six tickets on May 31, according to records.

DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan told DNAinfo.com in a statement that the goal of the ticketing and her agency’s previous education campaign is to discourage restaurants from valuing speedy deliveries over safety.

“Cutting corners on safety just to make faster bike deliveries short changes every New Yorker,” she said. “Our sustained education effort helped deliver real results, putting equipment in deliverymen’s hands and getting out the message to thousands of businesses that safety isn’t optional.”

One of the city’s great luxuries is having General Tso chicken, a pizza pie or any cuisine imaginable ferried to an office or home at any hour in any weather.

But the ease of dialing up a meal or ordering it online, as any New Yorker knows, has also led to two-wheeled terrors toting bags of food barreling down sidewalks and riding the wrong way.

The frequency of bad biking in her neighborhood prompted Councilwoman Gale Brewer to sponsor legislation that gives DOT inspectors the power to hand out tickets to restaurants and cyclists who disobey commercial cycling rules. The legislation passed last fall.

From last summer to this spring, the DOT held forums around the city educating restaurants about the rules and handing out free gear.

Restaurants are required to equip their delivery bikes with bells and lights. Their riders must wear a helmet, a vest identifying their restaurant and a unique ID number. They also cannot use electric bikes, which have become a popular mode of transportation.

When April 24 arrived, the DOT’s six inspectors started issuing summonses by targeting neighborhoods in the four boroughs where communities requested outreach. The program hasn’t launched yet in Staten Island, but the DOT hopes to expand the safety-initiative program in the future.

The inspectors go door to door to restaurants, checking for compliance and respond to 311 complaints. They also conduct inspections at restaurants after observing riders bicycling without the proper gear.

The DOT can issue a summons to the restaurant for failing to equip a bicycle or the cyclist and for failing to post safety rules in their business. (NYPD officers can also hand out tickets for traffic violations) Restaurants must pay $100 for the first DOT summons, but the amount jumps to $250 the second offense.

The enforcement has already received praise.

“Yes, it's better,” Councilwoman Brewer said of the commercial-cyclist conditions in her neighborhood, the Upper West Side.

Brewer said she has noticed fewer delivery workers riding on the sidewalk. She said the vests with the restaurants’ names have also made a difference.

“They can see the name of the restaurant and have some confidence they could call 311 with a complaint,” she said.

She still believes that education needs to continue, especially since new restaurants and employees are always moving in. She said Community Board 7, which covers the Upper West Side, reminds restaurants of the rules whenever they apply for a liquor license or sidewalk café.

Restaurant owners have so far kept quiet about the new penalties and increased oversight. The industry already faces routine health and building code inspections and had to fend off a ban on 16-ounce sodas.

“There is always a fine line between regulation and interference with small business,” said Andrew Moesel, the spokesman for the New York State Restaurant Association. “We understand that there are some bad actors who are making our streets less safe for pedestrians. By and large, the vast majority comply with the bike laws.”

Even restaurants that received DOT violations haven’t complained.

Wok N’ Roll had to pay $600 in fines after receiving six tickets. Its manager, Kim Chew, welcomed the enforcement.

“It’s for our safety,” she said. “I think it’s reasonable.”

But the restaurant still has a few rogue riders.

A reporter spotted a Wok N’ Roll employee on Tuesday hop on an electric bike without a helmet or vest to make a delivery. He cycled the wrong way on First Avenue.

When asked about the employee breaking the rules, Chew said, “Oh, he forgot.”