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Seamless, GrubHub Flouting City Delivery Bike Regulations, Board Warns

By Emily Frost | January 18, 2016 7:41am | Updated on January 19, 2016 5:47pm
 Upper West Siders worry that when delivery bikers wear GrubHub or Seamless vests people can't identify them or the restaurant for whom they're working.
Upper West Siders worry that when delivery bikers wear GrubHub or Seamless vests people can't identify them or the restaurant for whom they're working.
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DNAinfo/Rosa Goldensohn

UPPER WEST SIDE — National food delivery websites GrubHub and Seamless are flouting city rules regulating bike delivery worker safety by handing out branded vests that make it impossible to hold delivery workers who work for local eateries accountable for rogue cycling, according to community board members.

Currently, under Department of Transportation regulations, the city's restaurant owners are required to ensure their delivery staff wear vests with the eatery's information and the cyclist's identification number easily visible. That way, if a cyclist rides the wrong way or hits someone, they can easily be traced back to their workplace.

But according to members with the Upper West Side's Community Board 7, the online ordering sites have been doling out vests to restaurants that obscure the cyclists' identification information, creating a dangerous loophole.

"In this business model, the liability [for any crashes or breaking the rules] is with the restaurants but because Seamless and GrubHub want to have their own branding ... we don’t know which restaurant [the biker is] coming from," board member Linda Alexander said at a meeting Wednesday.

"It's crazy. There has to be a number, there has to be contact information."

When a restaurant contracts with Seamless or GrubHub, both owned by GrubHub Inc., for help processing its online orders, the company often gives the restaurant cyclists' vests emblazoned with its logos, said Meagan Jaglowski, a lawyer for GrubHub Inc.

While the bike delivery people might look like they work for GrubHub or Seamless because of their branded outerwear and bags, they actually are employees of the restaurant, she said.

Jaglowski said GrubHub Inc. has already started rolling out a new delivery bike service in which it will contract with its own delivery workers who would deliver food from multiple restaurants at any given time.

However, Jaglowski said the new independent delivery team has no plans in place to follow current DOT regulations on wearing clearly visible ID.

"For our delivery service providers, since we’re not affiliated with any [one] restaurant, we wouldn’t be able to comply with that regulation."

A DOT spokeswoman confirmed that the department is still reviewing how these laws will apply to scenarios where businesses make deliveries on behalf of other businesses.  

George Zeppenfeldt-Cestero, co-chairman of the business and consumer issues committee, said he was nearly knocked over by a delivery cyclist wearing a Seamless vest.

When he tried looking for an ID on the cyclist to track him back back to the restaurant he was working for, he said that number was nowhere to be seen.

CB7 board member Brian Jenks said Seamless and GrubHub shouldn't be allowed to "hold your hands in the air and say you have nothing to do with the violations for that delivery," given that deliveries are integral to their business.

The meeting comes months after police said a GrubHub delivery worker used his bike chain to beat a building superintendent who told him not to lock his bike to the front of her building, according to police.

GrubHub Inc. officials said at the time that they had suspended the worker, who fled the scene and was still being sought by police, and planned to fire him pending the outcome of the investigation. The status of the worker's case was not immediately available this week.

CB7 members said Wednesday they would try to work with GrubHub Inc. and any other delivery bike services to bring them into compliance with DOT regulations.

"We’re asking that you help the community be safe," said Zeppenfeldt-Cestero. 

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