Lappin Law Would Fine Bike Delivery Employers

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Upper East Side City Council Member Jessica Lappin has announced legislation that would make business owners responsible for cycling violations committed by their delivery workers.

City Room has the scoop:

Ms. Lappin, a Democrat who represents the Upper East Side, said she
has regularly received complaints from constituents about unsafe
conditions. A nine-year-old constituent, Annabel Azziz, wrote to her,
saying, “We can’t take a walk without being nervous of bicycles zooming
next to us.” Another constituent, an elderly woman, was hit by a bike
last Thursday and needs hip replacement surgery as a result, she said.

Although she did not have statistical evidence, Ms. Lappin said she
believed that workers who use bikes are in general less responsible
than recreational cyclists, who, she said, were more likely to use
helmets and obey traffic laws.

“I hear in community meetings, night after night, that people are
afraid to walk down the street,” Ms. Lappin said in a phone interview.

Under the bill, the employer of a worker found to have broken the
law while using a bicycle for commercial purposes would be liable for
the violation. Ms. Lappin said that shifting the liability from workers
to their employers would give businesses a greater incentive to ensure
that their employees are following the law.

Bicycle riders who violate traffic regulations can be fined between
$100 and $300, with an additional $200 fine if the rider hits a
pedestrian. Ms. Lappin said her bill would not increase the penalties,
but only shift the fine from the workers to the employers.

Streetsblog has certainly had its share of animated discussions on cyclists and traffic law, but Lappin’s proposal immediately reminded me of a recent story in New York Magazine describing the horrendous working conditions endured by Chinese restaurant bike delivery workers, including the loss of income they face when a customer complains about cold food due to ‘slow’ delivery (not to mention what happens if they’re injured in a crash). How would Lappin’s proposal affect that dynamic? Might business owners simply deduct incurred traffic fees out of an employee’s pay? Just one of many angles to consider, of course.

Also, anyone know what the fine is for a motorist who hits a pedestrian these days?

Photo: bondidwhat/Flickr

  • Face it, bikes in New York are menace. They’re nearly one two-hundredth as deadly as cars. Cyclists themselves have explosive heads–this is why it is so important to others that cyclists wear helmets. If we don’t get delivery people off empty sidewalks, and their volatile heads encased, neither our children, nor our elderly, nor our greenery will be safe from their reign of terror. Once bikes start obeying the laws because of this ingenious plan, we can confidently send out our kids to be run over by LEGITIMATE traffic.

  • Gwin

    As a so-called “recreataional” cyclist, I fully support any fines being doled out to delivery workers who ride on crowded sidewalks and down streets the wrong way, thereby endangering pedestrians and other cyclists alike.

    They basically give law-abiding riders a bad name to boot. So yeah, bring it on!

  • Hilary

    On the subject of required protection, everytime I see city traffic conductors (wd?) out in the middle of intersections now, I wonder why they aren’t required to wear face masks? Given the city’s tremendous liability for the 9/11 workers, wouldn’t it be prudent to protect city workers placed in the midst of particulate emissions> Especially by an administration who was able to stop smoking in restaurants and bars on the grounds of protecting employees? It seems like a huge lawsuit waiting to happen.

  • Voice of Reason

    But put yourselves in the shoes of the deliverymen. You’re on a tippy bike with a huge pizza or piles of orders, you’re trying to read the building numbers in the dark, and you’re looking for a place to lock your bike, a curb cut to get onto the sidewalk… I’d cut them some slack. The 9-year old and the old lady are probably more maneuverable than he is.

  • Stu

    This law seems like it would turn a bad fine for a biker (loss of a couple of days income) into a lost job.

    And seriously, who is that obsessed about bad delivery cyclists? I hate the bad drivers of the city more. Is it just because most of the delivery guys are brown that this is an issue for old slow people?

  • Dan

    I’m pretty sure that the drivers will pay in the end both by having to obey laws that slow deliviers and by having the management stick them with the fines anyway.

    But this is a very common complaint on the UES, namely that out of control bikers are a menance. Almost everyone knows someone who know someone who was hit or almost hit by some foreign guy on a bike. And let’s be honest, this thing has so much momentum because it’s targeted at a minority collection of bicyclists that really stand out on the UES.

    There are a million better things for Lappin to be doing about this but it’s a pander that her base will be happy to get.

    If someone from her office reads this blog, they’re called B-I-K-E L-A-N-E-S. You can probably find out about them using the internets.

  • Mike

    “And seriously, who is that obsessed about bad delivery cyclists? I hate the bad drivers of the city more. Is it just because most of the delivery guys are brown that this is an issue for old slow people?”

    Um, you should have seen the West Side public forum held last night. That was the number one complaint by far.

  • steve

    I think it is appropriate for the employers of delivery bicyclists to pay fines. The employers of the commercial delivery vehicles that cause hazards and congestion by double-parking and driving on prohibited roadways (like 5th and Park Aves), have to pay summonses, so the employers of delivery bicyclists should as well. (Of course the city forgives most of revenue from the summonses of the commercial vehicles through its “Stipulated Fine Program,” but that is another story).

    I encounter these delivery guys all the time and I think many become more safety conscious and traffic-savvy with experience. These are the ones who understand and care that they can earn more money by riding quickly, which means sticking with the flow of traffic and on the roads as opposed to sidewalks (except for the first and last leg of their delivery, which admittedly often will go quicker counter-flow or on the sidewalk). This subset seems identify as bicyclists and will sometimes ride along with me and share a word or two.

    In contrast, there are many delivery guys who seem to be in a fog, riding very slowly and unconfidently and often on the sidewalk or against traffic. In my experience this type often is unable to speak English. I sometimes give them the T.A. “Give Respect” leaflet (http://www.transalt.org/campaigns/bike/giveget_flyer2005.pdf) and I generally get vacant stares or they try to get away from me. I feel sorry for them but do they really belong on the job? My guess is that they are likely bring down the working conditions for everyone on the job, and general attitudes toward all bicyclists as well).

    So the answer may be to professionalize this workforce by enabling them to organize and bargain collectively, requiring that they be paid minimum wage, and with regulations like Lappin’s. But the devil is in the details of the proposed legislation.

  • Ian Turner

    This measure is completely irrelevant, because the problem isn’t a question of who pays the summonses — it’s a question of issuing the summonses in the first place. At present, you have to really work at it — on bicycle or auto — to receive any kind of moving violation. Fix that, and it becomes meaningful to talk about who pays. (hint: it probably doesn’t matter anyway)

  • Smith

    Lappin is proving herself to be the worst kind of lightweight.

    The solution to this problem is taking away a travel or parking lane on the avenues and converting it to a two-way, separated bike path similar to what DOT is doing on 9th Ave in Chelsea.

    Enforcement is not the answer.

  • Dave H.

    I think Steve may be onto something. As long as this remains an extremely low-paying profession with minimal job security, let alone employee rights, people will never work there very long . The current high turnover rate (I’m assuming there is one) means that you have a perpetually inexperienced workforce, who tend to behave in ineffecient and dangerous ways. Improve their conditions and you’ll see more experienced, safer riders.

    I don’t think it’s time to start sounding the racism drum since that may only be part of the problem.

    I’m also not sure if more building more biking infrastructure really is a panacea either. A lot of these guys never use bike lanes when they are there or, when they do, go against traffic.

  • v

    I hope Council Member Lappin is so concerned about this dangerous nuisance that she will forgo all delivery food until her measure passes.

    I myself will order an extra pizza in her honor.

  • galvo

    bicyclists should not discount the fear of the elderly concerning bicycles on the sidewalk and invading their crosswalk space. This sidewalk problem needs to be resolved.
    Bicyclist would have less hating directed at them by the very vocal elderly community.
    Bike boxes after crosswalks would help solve one problem.
    Delivery drivers with the business name visible on the riders may help the residents boycott the sidewalk offenders.

  • tps12

    Oh good god. Let’s get some data that’s a little more solid than “I bet delivery workers are worse than recreational cyclists” before we start getting people fired over this stuff.

  • Eric

    If someone riding a bike irresponsibly strikes and injures someone, they should suffer the consequences. Whether the employer should be liable too is open to debate. But if the same is not true for a delivery person driving a personal vehicle for his or her job, then this is just another anti-cycling piece of nonsense.

    And if there’s not a more-pressing issue affecting the lives of Councilmember Lappin’s constituents that she has yet to address through legislation, well, I ought ot relocate to the Eden that is the UES.

  • mm

    More dangerous to themselves are the pedestrian who walk out into the crosswalk while it is red without looking. I hit a lady today. Not proud of it at all but I was moving about 15 to 20 mph and she just stepped into my path. I’m very sorry lady, I’m going to go slower through the intersections starting tomorrow.

  • Ottawa On Cyclist

    I’m a Bike Messenger From Ottawa Ont

    I agree with this new law but would suggest one step further.

    Makeing all delevery cyclist’s go thru a mandatory cycling course. simaler to what
    Ottawa bicycle cops go thru.
    (May be diffrent in the Us)

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