- Grubhub and JOCO, an e-bike rental company, have formed a pilot program offering credits for 1,000 e-bikes to at least 500 New York City delivery workers starting in June. Grubhub is investing about $500,000 in the pilot, which will last for three months.
- The credits give workers free access to e-bikes and over 55 JOCO hubs, where couriers can store bikes, exchange batteries and collect delivery rider gear throughout Manhattan and some parts of Queens.
- The companies framed the offer, which is available to less than 1% of New York’s 65,000 delivery workers in a given month, as a way to improve fire safety. Lithium-ion batteries used to power e-bikes have caused a number of fires in the city recently, which city officials report have killed at least 11 people since the start of 2022.
E-bikes emerged as a vital tool for delivery workers under pressure to complete more orders in less time as far back as 2017. By 2021, many delivery workers were opting for a brand of bikes that topped out at 28 miles per hour, The Verge reports. According to Bloomberg, some models of e-bikes can reach speeds of 37 miles per hour. By contrast, JOCO’s bike speed tops out at roughly 19 miles per hour, Grubhub said in a statement emailed to Restaurant Dive.
It’s possible that JOCO’s relatively slow bike speed compared to rival e-bike platforms could discourage adoption, but the companies believe the partnership’s safety offerings will prove attractive to couriers. Still, the geographical limitations of the company’s operations may challenge participation. There are no JOCO stations north of East 108th Street in Manhattan, and only two stations in Queens, a borough with a population of at least 2.25 million. There are no JOCO hubs in Brooklyn, Staten Island or the Bronx, which have a combined population of at least 4.47 million, according to World Population Review.
“Top tier” couriers, which Grubub measures by commitment rate, timely arrivals and scheduling commitments, will be selected for the pilot, Grubhub wrote in an email to Restaurant Dive. Five hundred delivery partners will be selected each month, meaning the company “likely won’t distribute to the same 500 bikers” month to month, Grubhub said.
Grubhub will also give the New York City Fire Department’s FDNY Foundation, which is working to educate on safe practices for lithium-ion battery use, a $100,000 grant from the Grubhub Community Fund. JOCO’s batteries meet rigorous safety standards, and charging cabinets are equipped with fire extinguishers, Grubhub said.
Delivery worker safety and working conditions became a political flashpoint in New York City during the pandemic, when some of the city’s delivery workforce began organizing to protect themselves against theft and exploitative labor practices. That surge of activism resulted in the passage of new laws protecting workers and setting wages, though an initial wage-setting proposal was weakened after industry pushback. In other states, the tension over delivery working standards has led to some of the most expensive political battles of recent years, with gig economy companies facing off against organized labor in a years-long contest over independent contractor status in California.
Other restaurant companies have publicized perks offered to New York City delivery workers over the years. Chick-fil-A operated a pop-up space in February for workers that offers bike storage, bathrooms and WiFi, and DoorDash began offering bike rental discounts to New York City delivery workers in late 2020. The spate of local fires tied to bike batteries has spurred other nominal efforts by companies to improve safety, as well. Uber is working on an incentive program to encourage workers to give up aging or unsafe e-bikes.