Friday, May 30, 2008

"I'd like to place an order for delivery..."


This gentleman is either transporting his own shopping or is a delivery driver for a restaurant. I'm going to suggest he's doing restaurant delivery, as this is probably the most common bicycle rider you see in NYC. Unlike many places, every restaurant in New York will deliver to your door for no extra charge, and ordering lunch or dinner for delivery is incredibly common. And this is how it is delivered - there are usually a small fleet of delivery personnel and bicycles for each restaurant.

Ordering is as simple as choosing your neighborhood, looking up what kind of food you want, calling the place and asking for delivery. There's nothing that frustrates a New Yorker more than hearing the words "we don't deliver there." It's usually regarded as an accusation that somehow you live too far away from this restaurant you like (usually 1 block too far). And usually an argument (a friendly New York style argument) ensues: "But, I order from you all the time! Last time you didn't say I was too far away, what changed?!"

New York law requires that employers provide their bicycle delivery staff with helmets, lights and brakes, although I can't remember ever seeing a delivery driver with a helmet.

It's a great thing that these goods are transported by bike, but there are a few problems. First, these bicycle delivery drivers are often riding the wrong way on one-way streets - they frequently ride the wrong direction in bike lanes, weaving in and out of traffic and going very fast without control of their bikes. I have witnessed them hitting pedestrians on many occasions. However, the gentleman in the photo above was riding very responsibly and correctly (still not sure if he was even a delivery driver). Second, these drivers are often illegal workers who do not receive a living wage, have no benefits or job security and no recourse if they are unfairly treated. They often survive only from the tips that they are given by the people who order. Some restaurants do employee their delivery staff as regular, legal employees, but it's rare.


Krista said...

I was in NYC for the first time on Wednesday, and I was amazed by all the bicycles I saw! The delivery drivers were torturous, though... driving past with all the delicious smelling food. What a lovely city, too.

Michael said...

Krista - Thanks for reading - I hope you enjoyed the city, what did you see and do while you were here? Yes, SO much good food here. I think I find a new favorite place to eat every week.

Charlotte said...

I was hoping to get a evening job delivering for my favorite restaurant here in Boston. I'd ride all evening and work up an appetite to enjoy a tasty meal as payment. But I wouldn't have to live on the money. I can imagine that trying to earn a living doing that would be really tough.

Michael said...

Charlotte - indeed, one of the toughest jobs around!

ehouse said...

I have noticed that my regular delivery guys in my brooklyn neighborhood (from three different restaurants) are carrying helmets when they arrive at the door. I'm surprised actually. Perhaps my next task is to find out what bikes they are riding, although I'd be even more suprised if they are riding anything more than a chewed up huffy.