The demand for food delivery has skyrocketed. So you have complaints

BOSTON (AP) — The growing demand for quickly delivered food has led to the emergence of small armies of couriers — and increased anxiety — in major cities as scooters, motorcycles and scooters weave in and out of traffic and hop sidewalks filled with pedestrians as their drivers race to Drop salads and sandwiches.

Officials in Boston, New York and Washington, D.C., have begun cracking down on delivery companies by issuing warning letters, impounding vehicles registered or driven illegally, and launching special street patrols to enforce speed limits. The reaction is not limited to the United States: there have also been a series of crackdowns in London and other British cities.

For their part, delivery companies pledged to work with city officials to ensure all their drivers work legally and safely.

In a letter this week to food delivery companies DoorDash, Grubhub and Uber, officials in Boston cited an “alarming increase in the illegal and dangerous operation of motorcycles, scooters and mopeds” which they said puts drivers, other motorists and pedestrians in “imminent danger.” “.

The letter claimed that some drivers were driving unregistered vehicles and violating traffic laws, and warned of an imminent crackdown on the vehicles. It also called on companies to explain how they can ensure that their drivers are working safely. Massachusetts State Police said they have identified dozens of scooters and mopeds that were improperly registered or being operated by unlicensed drivers. Fourteen illegal motorcycles and mopeds were seized Wednesday in one Boston neighborhood alone.

In New York City, authorities have confiscated 13,000 motorcycles and mopeds so far this year; On Wednesday, they crushed more than 200 illegal motorcycles and other delivery vehicles. Meanwhile, authorities in Washington, D.C., launched a program on Wednesday called Operation Ride Right to ensure two-wheeler drivers comply with the law. Since the beginning, the authorities have arrested five people and confiscated 17 motorcycles.

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“They have terrorized many of our pedestrians, especially our seniors and seniors,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams said Wednesday at an event where two-wheeled delivery vehicles were destroyed. “Riders who believe the rules do not apply to them will see a strict enforcement policy in place.”

When food delivery services resurfaced in a big way during the COVID-19 pandemic, most drivers used cars to deliver their fare. This led to increased traffic congestion, prompting a shift to motorcycles and other two-wheeled means of transportation.

The drivers, many of whom are immigrants from Latin American countries but also from West Africa and South Asia, say they are just trying to make a living and offer a service to deliver customers’ food quickly.

“We’re not all bad,” said Luis Lopez, a delivery driver from the Dominican Republic who spoke to The Associated Press on Friday from his motorcycle in an area with several fast food restaurants near the Boston Public Library. “We come to work, to earn a living, pay the rent and send something back to our families.”

Lopez, who came to the United States about three years ago, acknowledged that some drivers are unlicensed or drive unregistered vehicles, and he has seen them running red lights on sidewalks, threatening pedestrians. He said some people are so reckless that they put other delivery drivers in danger.

He said he was among a group of 10 delivery drivers outside a Chick-fil-A store Thursday night when a police officer approached them with a flyer describing how to register their scooters and mopeds. The whole group agreed to do this.

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“We have to respect the law,” he said, speaking in Spanish. “We will respect the law until they allow us to work here.”

Two-wheeler drivers are subject to much more scrutiny than other gig workers in cars, such as Uber and Lyft drivers, faced years ago because they can violate traffic laws more easily, said Hilary Robinson, an assistant law professor. and Sociology at Northeastern University.

The shift to vehicles “is really an effort to free up low-wage, high-risk labor so that we can all have cheap goods and services,” Robinson said. “That’s probably one of the reasons why people realize there’s really no such thing as a free lunch.”

William Medina, a delivery worker in New York who is also an organizing leader of the Los Deliveristas Unidos campaign, blames delivery companies.

“This is a problem that started because companies are forcing you to complete deliveries from long distances,” he said in a phone interview on Friday. Medina started out delivering food on a bike, then switched to an electric bike, and now uses a motorcycle to make long trips.

“If you have to complete a 6-mile delivery, or 7 miles, you complete it,” he said.

Among those advocating for stricter enforcement in Boston is City Councilman Edward Flynn, who said on Facebook: “It can no longer be the Wild West on the streets of Boston.”

“Everyone using city roads must abide by the rules of the road. If you are able to go 25 mph like a car, you must be licensed, registered, and carry liability insurance in case of an accident or injury,” he wrote.

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Some Boston residents support tougher measures against scooters.

“I get frustrated when they don’t obey traffic laws,” said Anne Kirby, a 25-year-old student eating lunch in a Boston neighborhood a few hundred feet from several motorcycles. “I feel like I get hit almost every day when they walk across the crosswalk when it’s not their turn to go.”

But Jaya Samuel, a 25-year-old hospital worker from Boston, was more conflicted. She said she agrees that delivery bikes can be dangerous, but also acknowledged that she relies heavily on delivery services for her food.

“I think it’s a little unsafe, weaving between cars and not stopping at a red light,” she said. “But I feel like everyone should be able to make a living, so who am I to say anything? It would be unfortunate for me. I would take a hit from the crackdown on them. I order a lot from Uber Eats, DoorDash.”

Three major food delivery services pledged to work with officials and neighborhood advocates to address the problem.

“The vast majority of Dashers are doing the right thing, and like all drivers they must follow the rules of the road. If they don’t, they face the consequences — just like everyone else,” DoorDash said in a statement Wednesday.

Grubhub said its employees already agree to abide by all local traffic laws. “Although the law is best enforced by the police, we take safety seriously and will take action to address any reports of unsafe driving,” the company said in a statement on Thursday.

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Associated Press writers Michael Warren in Decatur, Georgia, and Lisa J. Adams Wagner in Evans, Georgia.

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