StreetsPAC's Testimony to City Council on Powered Micro-Mobility Devices and Delivery Work

Earlier this week, we submitted testimony to the New York City Council Committee on Consumer and Worker Protection relating to a hearing it held on June 21 on several pieces of legislation pertaining to powered micro-mobility devices and the city's food-delivery ecosystem. We offered our support for legislation that would help alleviate the unreasonable demands that delivery-app companies place on workers that in turn lead to unsafe riding behaviors, and voiced qualified support for well intentioned bills that would increase accountability for app companies but could, in our opinion, be improved.

Our full testimony follows below.

E-bikes and other powered micro-mobility devices are central to the city’s booming food-delivery economy – and are vastly preferable to cars and vans for making the type of short-range, small-sized deliveries typified by restaurant orders.

At the same time, there’s no doubt that the proliferation of two-wheeled devices, both for commercial and non-commercial use, has led to a fair amount of disorder on city streets and has outpaced government’s ability to regulate them. It’s likely that the majority of mopeds on New York City’s streets today are illegal, lacking the vehicle identification numbers necessary for required registration, but sellers of these devices routinely don’t disclose that fact to the delivery workers buying them. And due to concerns about e-bike battery safety and the lack of sufficient charging infrastructure, many workers have turned to mopeds for ease of use.

Furthermore, the unreasonable expectations placed on delivery workers by delivery-app platforms often leads to unsafe operation as workers hustle to earn tips and avoid deplatforming by the apps. These poor and dangerous working conditions contribute to the chaotic street environment, which in turn exacerbate the fears that many pedestrians have about their safety.

There is some reason for optimism about improving conditions on city streets, including the recent passage of state legislation that will require point-of-sale registration for mopeds, which should ensure that new mopeds are street-legal, properly registered, and operated by licensed riders in compliance with the law. Additionally, legislative efforts at both the city and state level should lead to improved battery safety, and coupled with fledgling efforts to make battery-charging infrastructure safer and more widely available, should help reverse the trend of switching from e-bikes to mopeds.

Legislative efforts to get this all right are essential. Gas-powered mopeds are dirtier and noisier, and in most cases, faster and heavier than e-bikes, and present greater danger to pedestrians and cyclists. E-bikes offer improved mobility for workers, commuters, the elderly and others who can benefit from a little extra boost to climb hills or cover longer distances, and can help pave the way to a greener future.

Int. 0737-2024 and Int. 0738-2024 – Support

These bills, which would require delivery-app platforms to establish gratuity standards for delivery workers and make tipping option more apparent for consumers placing orders, are part and parcel with other efforts to make delivery work more economically sustainable for Deliveristas, including the increased minimum wage and preventing app companies from deplatforming workers for failing to meet unreasonable demands for the speed or distance of deliveries. We urge the committee to pass this legislation.

Int. 0030-2024, Int. 0715-2024, and Int. 0972-2024 – Support in Concept

Int. 0030-2024 would require that app platforms ensure that micro-mobility devices used by workers delivering on their behalf meet safety standards. Int. 0715-2024 would assign responsibility and liability to app companies for violations incurred by workers delivering on their behalf for operating illegally on sidewalks or failing to adhere to traffic regulations at intersections. Int. 0972-2024 would require that third-party delivery services verify that mopeds employed for deliveries on their behalf are properly registered.

All the foregoing bills are well intentioned, aiming to improve safety both for delivery workers and people who share the streets with them, and all rightly put the onus on the delivery-app platforms that are incentivizing sometimes unsafe behavior. As such, we support all three pieces of legislation conceptually.

However, any legislation focused on regulating the devices used by delivery workers needs to take a phased approach that accounts for the current situation faced by workers. Many workers are operating devices currently that would not meet the safety standards envisioned by Int. 0030, for example, and while the legislation would require third-party companies to provide devices to workers at no cost, enacting such programs would surely take time, so it’s critical that such an effort would not temporarily put Deliveristas out of work.

Similarly, with so many of the mopeds currently in use lacking the VINs necessary for registration, implementing Int. 0972 would certainly sideline many workers whose devices are non-compliant. Creating pathways to compliance are absolutely necessary in advance of enactment of such legislation.

And lastly, assigning liability to the app companies for operating infractions committed when workers are making deliveries on their behalf, as outlined in Int. 0715, makes sense, but we do believe that eliminating the working conditions that lead to workers committing those infractions needs to happen concurrently. The goal should be safer and more respectful operation of micro-mobility devices, not just the reassignment of the responsibility for it.

We strongly support efforts to improve safety, and believe that those efforts are most likely to bear fruit if done holistically as part of a large-scale effort to regulate and manage the city’s delivery ecosystem.

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published this page in News 2024-06-29 15:31:30 -0400
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