Pols, food delivery service providers clash over proposed e-bike regulations

Bronx Council Member Oswald Feliz speaks at the Committee on Consumer and Worker Protection hearing at City Hall on Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2024.
Bronx Council Member Oswald Feliz speaks at the Committee on Consumer and Worker Protection hearing at City Hall on Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2024.
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The New York City Council chambers were split over legislation from a Bronx council member presented during a committee hearing on Jan. 31, which would require delivery workers to have regulated e-bikes at the expense of their employer.     

Sponsored by Bronx Council Member Oswald Feliz, Introduction T2024-0072 would require any powered mobility device used by food service delivery workers to meet local standards — but at the responsibility of the third-party services the workers deliver for, like DoorDash, Uber Eats and GrubHub.  

Feliz — who represents the areas of Fordham, Belmont, East Tremont, West Farms, Van Nest, and Allerton in the 15th Council District — spoke in support of his legislation during the Committee on Consumer and Worker Protection on Jan. 31, doubling down on his assertions that stricter regulations would make delivery workers’ jobs safer. 

“My bill will require that delivery app companies provide a safe, certified e-bike to delivery bike workers that don’t have one,” Feliz said. 

Particularly, the council member said he’s concerned about e-bike fires caused by their lithium-ion batteries — noting that he is worried a lack of e-bike safety regulation could make “one of these fires escalate to the fire that we saw in Twin Parks.” The Twin Parks North West residential fire killed 17 people, including eight children, in Fordham in January 2022.   

Lithium-ion battery fires have been the culprit of a multitude of residential and structural fires since micromobility devices like e-bikes and e-scooters have become popular in recent years — which have killed and injured Bronxites and residents of other boroughs. The fires have resulted in everything from blanket bans on micromobility devices to legislation put forward by other Bronx council members. 

Representatives from Mayor Eric Adams’ office, including officials from the NYPD and city Department of Transportation (DOT), expressed their support for the bill alongside other council members present at the Jan. 31 hearing. Co-sponsors of the legislation include Manhattan Council Members Keith Powers, Shaun Abreu, and Gale Brewer, as well as Brooklyn Council Member Rita Joseph. 

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However, others who testified against Feliz’s legislation at the committee hearing cited concerns about how the bill could greater impact the food industry — claiming that the legislation only targets one group of people who use micromobility devices for food delivery, that it could deter people from working in food delivery, and that it could affect small businesses and restaurants that partner with food delivery services. 

Kassandra Perez-Desir, the head of government relations at DoorDash, said stipulations for the delivery worker minimum wage increase — which mandates a slow raise in hourly rates for workers to $19.96 by 2025 — include requiring food delivery companies to pay their workers $2.26 every hour for their equipment. 

“A worker delivering for 21.3 hours of work per week will earn enough to buy a new certified bike every year,” she said while speaking in opposition. “Currently food delivery is the only industry contributing financially toward this problem by paying workers directly tens of millions of dollars per year.” 

Joshua Bocian, the senior manager of government affairs at GrubHub, shared similar concerns about feeling singled out by the legislation, stating plainly that the bill “will kill jobs” if passed.

“The dangers posed by unsafe lithium-ion batteries and chargers are a citywide problem that needs a citywide solution. The risks we must address extend far beyond the restaurant and delivery industry, into both commercial and person uses. We need a comprehensive plan that protects all New Yorkers.”

Feliz’s bill is slated to be introduced to the full council at the body’s next stated meeting on Feb. 8. 

“We want the third-party apps to do a little bit more, and I’m very proud of all the work that we’ve done on this bill to make it possible and hopefully make it a reality in the city of New York,” Feliz said.

Reach Camille Botello at cbotello@schnepsmedia.com. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes