Delivery Drivers on E-Bikes and Mopeds Are in Danger in NYC

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If you’ve ordered takeout recently in New York City, chances are your food was whisked to your front door by a delivery driver on an electric bicycle or moped.

But what you likely didn’t consider when you made your order was that the person hand-delivering your dinner may have risked their life to get it to you.

New York City delivery workers who don’t use cars have one of the deadliest jobs in the city. There are now more than 65,000 app-based restaurant delivery workers in the city, and about 80% of them use e-bikes and motorbikes.

The fatality rate for these workers was at least 36 per 100,000 between January 2021 and June 2022, the city Department of Consumer and Worker Protection reported. That’s more than 5 times the fatality rate for construction workers in New York City, which was seven per 100,000 in 2020, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Most driver deaths are a result of traffic crashes, though workers are also subject to a high rate of violent robbery.

App-based delivery drivers are also being severely injured at extremely high rates. The city report found that 28.7% of e-bike or moped delivery workers experienced injuries that forced them to miss work, lose consciousness, or seek medical care. Complicating matters, delivery drivers are disproportionately immigrants, and many are living in the country illegally, so they avoid reporting these crimes to the police or seeking medical care for fear of deportation.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, transportation and material-moving jobs have the second-highest fatality rates nationwide after farming, fishing, and forestry.

Inadequate infrastructure

The increase in bicycles and electric-powered non-car vehicles on the streets is a huge win for the climate and for street safety in general — more efficient, greener transportation and fewer cars and delivery trucks on the roads is a good thing.

But New York City’s infrastructure is way behind. The roads are designed to move cars and trucks as quickly as possible, with little accountability for dangerous driving and very little protected space for anyone getting around by bike or scooter. Just 3% of the city’s roads have protected bike lanes, and just 1% of intersections have red light cameras, Bloomberg recently reported.

Delivery drivers aren’t the only New Yorkers at high risk of being killed in a traffic accident. Bicycle deaths, overall, hit a 24-year high in 2023. Most of the 30 cyclists who were killed in crashes last year died in collisions with automobiles — mostly trucks or SUVs — on streets without bike lanes, according to a New York Times analysis.

Without sufficient safe infrastructure, cyclists — and all kinds of non-car drivers — opt for sidewalks, where they can disrupt pedestrians, or dangerous roads where they’re no match for cars and trucks.

The surge in delivery drivers on e-bikes, scooters, mopeds, and motorbikes has created some safety and quality-of-life issues for everyone else on the street as well.

In January, New York Mayor Eric Adams announced the creation of a new department of sustainable delivery tasked with regulating commercial delivery services that use bikes and other micro-mobility vehicles.

The city’s Department of Transportation insists it’s taking seriously street safety for delivery workers and others using multi-modal transportation. A spokesperson for the department told Business Insider that it built more protected bike lanes last year — 32 miles of them —  than all other major US cities combined.

But that falls far short of the 50 miles of protected lanes it aimed to build last year. The department also noted it’s working to expand certain well-used bike lanes and the number of bus-mounted cameras that ticket drivers that block bike and bus lanes.


A memorial ghost bike stands in memory of Jose Alvarado, a delivery worker killed by a hit-and-run driver in the South Bronx.

A memorial ghost bike stands in memory of Jose Alvarado, a delivery worker killed by a hit-and-run driver in the South Bronx on January 28, 2024.

Andrew Lichtenstein/Getty Images



Advocates for safer streets say the city needs to do much more to build better infrastructure. They’re asking for wider protected bike lanes, or even separate lanes for e-bikes and mopeds, and charging facilities for e-bikes.

“The City is going backwards on street safety. The number of fatalities and injuries will only continue to rise unless the City matches the huge surge in e-bikes and mopeds with infrastructure improvements, dedicated e-bike lanes, investments in slow and shared streets, and accountability from food delivery companies,” New York City Comptroller Brad Lander said in a statement to Business Insider.

Little accountability

App-based delivery workers’ status as gig workers — contractors rather than employees — is central to their plight. Food delivery companies — including giants like Uber Eats, Grubhub, and DoorDash — don’t have to provide them with benefits, including health insurance.

And they didn’t have to provide them with minimum pay until last year when the city implemented a minimum wage for app-based restaurant delivery drivers. In April, the mayor announced the hourly wage would be bumped to $19.56 per hour, before tips — a big improvement on the average of $5.39 per hour that workers made before the law went into effect.

Ligia Guallpa, executive director of the worker advocacy group the Workers Justice Project, blames food delivery companies for creating unsafe working conditions by incentivizing workers to deliver as many orders as they can as quickly as possible, and to work late at night, during storms, and in other risky conditions. Advocates for delivery workers hope minimum pay will lessen these incentives.

“The number one reason we have been advocating for fair pay in the app delivery industry is because having dignified pay actually translates into safety on the streets,” Guallpa, who was a driving force behind the creation of minimum pay for app workers, told Business Insider. “Minimum pay really means that you can actually drive safely when you’re riding to make that delivery.”

A spokesperson for DoorDash said the company offers all drivers occupational accident insurance, and has a trust and safety team available to support drivers around the clock. Uber similarly insisted the company is “deeply committed to building innovative features, promoting safe behavior on the road, and working with safety experts to raise the bar on safety,” according to a spokesperson.

Guallpa’s group wants to see a slew of other changes to improve worker safety, including boosting worker protections and investments in infrastructure like bike lanes and bike parking, better education for workers and connections to city resources, and stronger enforcement of the employers’ obligations.

Lander and Guallpa also want the companies to help their joint effort to create “Deliverista hubs” — storefronts and converted newsstands where workers can take breaks, charge their bikes, get training, and be connected with city resources like health insurance. Three hubs are in the works — one near City Hall in lower Manhattan, one on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and one in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Guallpa said.

Keeping delivery workers safe should be a public priority, Guallpa said. Indeed, “New Yorkers are dependent on app delivery workers to keep them safe and fed during times of crisis,” she added.

Are you a delivery driver who uses an e-bike or moped? If you’re interested in sharing your story, reach out to this reporter at [email protected].

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