Delivering meals on a bike through the streets of New York City is not an easy job. It is probably even harder and more dangerous than you think. Every day, they may fight traffic, bad weather, irate pedestrians and uncooperative doormen. And, they run the risk of being severely injured or killed by the motor vehicles around them.
According to the Department of Transportation, there are an estimated 50,000 delivery cyclists in New York City. In 2017, 4,397 cyclists were injured and 24 died due to motor vehicle accidents. So far this year, nine cyclists have already been killed in traffic collisions.
When an accident happens
When a delivery cyclist is involved in an accident caused by a car’s driver, the cyclist can sue. Unfortunately, this is not always easy to do. The family of a cyclist killed on the job may not find the same support a construction worker’s family may get under the same conditions. Construction workers often have strong unions, and families can sue the general contractor or the construction site owner for millions of dollars. Safe work environments on construction sites are required by law – this is not the case for delivery cyclists.
Delivery cyclists are independent contractors. Workers typically get paid around $4.50 an hour, the New York tipped minimum for restaurants with 10 or fewer employees. Even with tips, an eight-hour shift may only bring in just over one hundred dollars. Bike delivery is usually filled with workers that have a tough time finding work anywhere else.
Use of e-bikes: the good and the bad
E-bikes are powered by a battery and can be used to cover more ground, making deliveries faster. Older delivery workers love e-bikes because they ease stress on the body and can even assist in getting to deliveries that are farther away. Even though the federal government classifies e-bikes as bicycles, New York City considers them illegal motor vehicles being operated by unlicensed operators. Even still, many delivery cyclists, especially the older ones, regularly use e-bikes.
Being a delivery cyclist is a tough and challenging job. It can also be dangerous and life-threatening. There seem to be a lot of areas where the working environment can improve for these cyclists, but until those improvements begin, the number of accidents and deaths may continue to grow.