NEWS NYC ‘delivery guys’ unite to protect themselves from e-bike theft, traffic accidents

NYC 'delivery guys' unite to protect themselves from e-bike theft, traffic accidents

The constant theft of their e-bikes has led New York City food delivery workers to organize over the past two years, using Facebook and WhatsApp to create a citywide support network and community watch group.

Their community activism is based in part on traditional Mexican forms of indigenous organizing.

On a cold, rainy November night on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Juan Solano rode his e-bike through city streets. His boots were soaked, but he still managed to keep a smile on his face as he battled the elements.

He remembered the addresses of all the nearby buildings; some of the largest factories had separate service entrances that workers had to use. He’s one of about 60,000 food delivery workers that keep New York City going, working for apps like Grubhub, Doordash and Relay.

Solano has been a delivery man for the past four years, since he came to the U.S. from his native port of San Juan Montana in the Mexican state of Guerrero. He’s seen his fair share of accidents – two road accidents and one robbery last year.

Deliveryman Juan Solano and his bike. Dashiell Allen

according to New York Times, e-bike thefts increased by 98% between 2019 and 2020. The bikes the delivery men rely on cost about $2,000 each and are often sold on the black market.

The NYPD said they do not have data on the number of robberies this year, but a Facebook page created by Juan Solano and his three cousins, Sergio, Cesar and Marcelino Solano, documents El Diario de los Delivery Boys en la Gran Manzana, the past three There were at least 70 bicycle thefts during the month.

“When the pandemic started, people started robbing us with guns, knives, or three would take your bike,” recalled Anthony Chavez, another deliveryman.

They also have to travel longer distances, increasing the number of accidents. The app Juan uses, Relay, is one of the few that pays $12.50 an hour plus tips — but in exchange, riders must accept every order that comes in, even if it’s just a slice of pizza delivered 50 blocks away.

In the event of an accident, “When you fell down on your bike…”. . . and you need to go to the ambulance, who will look after your bike? asked Juan. “The ambulance doesn’t carry bicycles.” ”

The Solano Cousins ​​launched the Delivery Boys Facebook page in November 2020 to share information with their community. Back then, Juan remembers, delivery men were barely organized and most thefts went unpunished. Now, two years later, the page has more than 43,000 followers and things have improved, despite the daily muggings.

Workers have created a network of mutual support using seven WhatsApp groups.

“They communicate in real time, if someone steals your bike [or is hit in a traffic accident]they immediately send an alert to the group and go to [to the scene] and recover the bike,” explained Ambar Reyes, a researcher at MIT who has been studying delivery people. They use different methods to catch thieves, such as installing hidden GPS on the bike, or picking up the thieves within minutes of the robbery. Go personally to the location where the robbery took place.

“We get at least three cases a day,” Juan told independent.

In fact, during the Delivery Boys’ own anniversary celebration, there was an accident just a few blocks away on 110th Street and 1st Ave. “Within five minutes, about 20 colleagues got together,” Juan says proudly. “We’re able to help faster than the police.”

In particular, Juan said, the Willis Avenue Bridge between the South Bronx and East Harlem used to see daily robberies.He and his cousins ​​don’t wear it very often since they live in East Harlem and most of their jobs are in Manhattan, but when they heard a few of their complaints companionthey knew it was time to get organized.

From June 2021, they have activated a community watch group.

The deliverymen employed the same tactics and tactics they used to in their hometown in southern Mexico.

“We urge everyone to cross the road in groups to avoid being attacked because people on our bikes – if they see you alone, they will [your bike]but if they see five or six of you, they don’t do anything because even they are afraid of us,” Solano said.

Despite protests against the NYPD and calls for security cameras and additional lighting on the bridge, the delivery man never received a definitive response from police.

Without police support, “we’re left to fend for ourselves,” Juan explained. “The people save the people.”

At 125th Street and 1st Ave., at the bridge entrance, a shift team will be on guard from 8 p.m. until the early hours of the morning. If someone gets robbed, they immediately go to the middle of the bridge to help them.

Juan and his cousin came from an indigenous community of Trapaneca cut off from mainstream Mexican culture. Spanish is actually Juan’s second language.

Their “form of social organization in New York and Mexico stems from the same reason; when they needed help, the government didn’t help,” Reyes said.

In addition to the community-watching groups that are common in Guerrero and other Mexican states, delivery workers are using Facebook Live as they use community radio stations, a form of communication that is also common in rural and indigenous communities in Mexico, Reyes said.

On-site observations ended about eight months ago when they saw a drop in robberies, but the space under the bridge remains a unifying place between Manhattan and the Bronx; that’s where they celebrated their anniversary, with Birthday cake, mariachi music and a raffle for a new e-bike.

Deliverymen joins other groups that form the New York City Food Delivery Movement.

Sergio Solano explained, “We are not an organization, we are just a movement, what we do is go around the city, we can sustain ourselves, there is no connection with NGOs or local politicians. any connection.”

Conditions remain difficult. Antony Chavez, founder of another Facebook page, El Chapín en Dos Ruedas, is originally from Guatemala and lives in the Bronx, but keeps his bike in a Manhattan parking lot for safety.

Memorial to cyclists killed on Willis Avenue Bridge. Dashiell Allen

Rolando Reras, who has been delivering for four years, now uses a shared bike from the city instead of his own; he already has his own stolen and is “afraid it will come again stolen”.

Many delivery men lost their lives. On Nov. 2, during Day of the Dead celebrations, delivery men created a traditional altar under the Willis Avenue Bridge in honor of at least 18 delivery men who have died over the past year.

One of them was Tiburcio Castillo, who was attacked and killed while crossing the same bridge in June this year.

Workers are proud, though, that they have been able to recover more stolen bikes in recent months thanks to GPS they can locate.

“Right now I have about ten GPSs that I give to my followers to encourage them” to use them, Chavez said.

In fact, just last month, a delivery man recovered a stolen bike.

“although companion Give up for loss, thanks today [GPS] It’s in Manhattan,” the page reads. “[After] intense search companion Someone from the WhatsApp group was able to restore it. “

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