The demand for food delivery has skyrocketed. So I have complaints about some drivers

BOSTON — The rising demand for fast-delivered food has spawned small armies of couriers – and growing anxiety – in major cities where scooters, motorcycles and mopeds zip in and out of traffic and jump onto sidewalks full of pedestrians as their drivers rush to deliver salads and sandwiches. to give .

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

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

In a letter this week to food delivery companies DoorDash, Grubhub and Uber, Boston officials cited an “alarming increase in the unlawful and dangerous use of motorcycles, mopeds and motorized scooters” that they said could immediately harm drivers, other motorists and pedestrians. endanger”. .”

The letter alleged that some drivers were driving unregistered vehicles and violating traffic rules, and warned of an impending action against the vehicles. It also demanded that the companies explain how they can ensure their drivers work safely. Massachusetts State Police said they have identified dozens of mopeds and scooters that are improperly registered or operated by unlicensed drivers. Fourteen illegal mopeds and scooters were seized in a Boston neighborhood alone on Wednesday.

In New York City, authorities have seized 13,000 scooters and mopeds so far this year; on Wednesday they crushed more than 200 illegal mopeds and other vans. Authorities in Washington, D.C., meanwhile, launched a program on Wednesday called Operation Ride Right to ensure drivers of two-wheeled vehicles follow the law. Since the start, authorities have made five arrests and seized seventeen mopeds.

“They have terrorized many of our pedestrians, especially our seniors and older adults,” New York Mayor Eric Adams said Wednesday at an event destroying two-wheeled motorized vans. “Riders who think the rules don't apply to them will see aggressive enforcement policies.”

When food delivery services saw their big resurgence during the COVID-19 pandemic, most drivers used cars to deliver their food. That led to more traffic congestion, prompting a shift to motorcycles and other two-wheeled modes of transportation.

The drivers, many immigrants from Latin American countries but also from West Africa and South Asia, say they are just trying to make a living and provide a service that gets customers their food quickly.

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

López, who came to the U.S. about three years ago, acknowledged that some drivers do not have driver's licenses or drive unregistered vehicles, and he has seen them run red lights on sidewalks and threaten pedestrians. Some people are so reckless that they also endanger other delivery drivers, he said.

He said he was part of a group of 10 delivery drivers outside a Chick-fil-A on Thursday evening when a police officer approached them with a flyer describing how to register their scooters and mopeds. The entire group agreed to do just that.

“We must respect the law,” he said in Spanish. “We're going to respect the law so they let us work here.”

Drivers of motorized two-wheeled vehicles are subject to much closer scrutiny than they did years ago for other gig workers, such as Uber and Lyft drivers, because they can more easily break traffic laws, said Hilary Robinson, an associate professor of law. and sociology at Northeastern University.

The move to vehicles “is really an effort to make low-wage, high-risk workers available so that we can all have cheap goods and services,” Robinson said. “It may be one of the reasons why people are starting to realize that there really is no such thing as a free lunch.”

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

“This is a problem that has arisen because the companies force you to complete the deliveries from far distances,” he said in a telephone interview on Friday. Medina started delivering food by bicycle, switched to an electric bicycle and now uses a moped to make longer journeys.

“If you have to complete the delivery 6 miles, 7 miles, you have to complete it,” he said.

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

“Anyone using city roads must obey traffic rules. “If you can drive 40 km per hour like a car, you must be licensed, registered and have liability insurance in case of accident and injury,” he wrote.

Some Bostonians support tougher action against the scooters.

“I get frustrated when they don't follow the rules of the road,” said Anne Kirby, a 25-year-old college student eating lunch in a Boston neighborhood a few hundred yards from several scooters. “I feel like I get hit almost every day when they cross the crosswalk when it's not their turn to go.”

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

“I think it's unsafe to some extent, weaving between cars and not stopping at red lights,” she said. “But I believe that everyone should be able to earn a living, so who am I to say anything? It would be a shame for me. I would get a slap if I cracked down on them. I order a lot of Uber Eats, DoorDash.

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

“The vast majority of Dashers do the right thing and, like all motorists, must follow the rules of the road. If they don't, they will face consequences – just like anyone else,” DoorDash said in a statement on Wednesday.

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

___

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

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