Is 15 Minute Bike Delivery Important?

The Lempert Report
November 09, 2021

Bike delivery seems to be all the rage

In NYC, the EU and other parts of the world, bike delivery is raising crazy money from VC funds. GoPuff, Gorilla and others are challenging the traditional services like Uber Eats and Door Dash to deliver groceries faster. The promise is 15 minutes or less. The concept is that New Yorkers want a pint of ice cream or diapers at 2am and just don’t want to walk the block to a corner bodega themselves, oh wait, NYC has had bike deliveries from grocers and other food purveyors for my entire lifetime.

So is this a trend? A fad? Or a way for VCs to make money quickly and see this service disappear as quickly as it was born. Bike delivery has become high-tech with the old bikes, usually with plastic bags wrapped around the seats to avoid having to buy a new one since its been so worn out from use and weather conditions, being replaced with fancier e-bikes that have cup and iPhone holders, can reach 20-30 miles per hour depending on the model, and can cost upwards of $2,000. But in this urgent, and perhaps needless need, for faster, faster, faster delivery there are problems. These bike drivers go through red lights, weave around traffic causing fender benders and even having to fend off attackers who try to steal their bikes. All the while, the delivery companies are pushing them to go faster and faster and make more deliveries. In NYC there are approximately 65,000 food delivery workers and their preferred bike is the Arrow battery -powered mountain bike which sells for $1,800. A recent survey of 500 delivery workers conducted by the Worker's Justice Project and Cornell University found that more than half have had an accident or crash while doing a delivery.

Three in four delivery workers said they paid for medical care from a work-related injury out of their own pocket. Half said they have had their bikes stolen. In the first nine months of 2021, ten delivery cyclists have died, according to the Worker's Justice Project. That includes one who died after a hit and run in Brooklyn and another worker who was stabbed to death. Another was fatally stabbed and had his e-bike stolen in Manhattan's Chinatown early Saturday morning was reportedly a food delivery worker on the job. Police say the 51-year-old man was found cuts to his face and a stab wound to his abdomen on Hester Street near Chrystie Street at around 1:05am.

Delivery workers have been the victims of violence while on the job in separate incidents. In Queens, Xing Long Lin, was on his scooter when he was run over by a driver who then slammed into a restaurant's outdoor dining setup on April 30th. No charges have been brought against the driver. Francisco Villalva was fatally shot inside a playground in East Harlem while on the job. Villalva had been approached by a man at gunpoint and demanded to give up his bike. In all three cases, the deliverymen were on the job. The Worker's Justice Project group successfully lobbied the New York City Council to set new pay minimums and require restaurants to let workers use their bathrooms, which was previously not allowed. In response to these growing safety concerns, DoorDash announced a new tool on their app called SafeDash in six cities including New York, in partnership with security company ADT.

The app offers "reassurance calls" if a DoorDasher feels unsafe and an easy way to contact 911 if a worker encounters danger. Is 15 minute delivery that important? What do you think?