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New Legislation Protects Delivery Workers Who Use Bikes

By Ray Rivera

New York Times, March 29, 2007

Businesses that use bicycle delivery workers will have to give them helmets, require that they wear them and ensure that the bikes are safe, under legislation signed into law yesterday by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

The new laws, which will affect thousands of businesses in the city’s thriving bicycle-messenger and food-delivery industries, were passed by the City Council earlier this month with overwhelming support. They are set to take effect on July 26.

Under one law, businesses must provide helmets, at the business owners’ expense, to employees who use bicycles as part of their work, and require that workers wear them.

The bill also requires business owners to ensure that every bicycle used by employees as part of their work, regardless of who owns it, is equipped with safety devices required by state vehicle and traffic laws, including reflective devices and properly working brakes.

The second law requires business owners to prominently display signs in their businesses, where employees can see them, summarizing bicycle safety laws and regulations. The signs must be in English, Spanish and any other language predominantly spoken by a company’s delivery employees.

“In addition to enhancing the safety of pedestrians traversing the city’s streets, these bills will help protect our city’s hard-working delivery personnel, many of whom are immigrants who speak a language other than English,” Mayor Bloomberg said.

The city does not keep separate statistics on injuries and deaths involving bicycle messengers and delivery workers. On average, there are 23 bicycle fatalities in the city each year, and in 94 percent of those cases, the rider was not wearing a helmet, according to a 2006 city report. Nearly three-quarters of the deaths were caused by head injuries.

In September, Reginald Chan, the owner of Jade Mountain, a Chinese restaurant in the East Village, died of head injuries he sustained when he was struck by a truck while making a food delivery on a bicycle. News reports at the time did not indicate whether he was wearing a helmet, and Police Department records were not available yesterday.

David J. Louie, the chairman of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, began pushing for the tougher safety standards for restaurant bicycle delivery workers after a delivery woman was killed in a similar accident in Chinatown in the summer of 2004. That year, Mr. Louie approached City Councilman Alan Gerson, who introduced the helmet legislation that fall. The bill moved slowly through the Council before it was passed on March 14.

“I’m glad it was signed today,” Mr. Louie said. “But I wish it was signed five months earlier. If the law was signed in August, maybe we would have had one less fatality.” He was referring to Mr. Chan’s death.

Mr. Gerson called the bicycle delivery workers “part of the commercial fabric of our lives in New York City,” who deserve protection.

Louis Nunez, president of the Latino Restaurant Association, said his members strongly supported the measure. The group represents some 2,800 restaurants in New York City, about 35 percent of which make deliveries, Mr. Nunez said.

“We surveyed our members and they have all agreed it’s a good bill” and are willing to pay for the helmets, he said.

The mayor also signed into law yesterday a bill strengthening domestic-partner benefits for city workers. domestic partners employed by the city already receive virtually every benefit that married couples receive. The new law requires that any future benefits for married couples also be provided to domestic partners.




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