‘Let bike couriers ride on the footstreets’, plead York takeaway owners

Independent takeaway owners are backing York’s cycle couriers in a bid to help them speed up delivery times – with one restaurant owner saying they are “essential” to the survival of businesses.

Couriers have asked for permission to cycle through the pedestrianised streets while collecting or delivering orders. They say they are judged on quick delivery times and their speed dictates whether they make minimum wage.

They say getting off their bikes to walk on pedestrianised streets means they make fewer deliveries and lose pay – but if they cycle they face being fined.

Max Potts, who runs Mr Chippy, told council transport bosses at a meeting: “The riders haven’t been able to form an efficient service due to the time it takes them to get in and out of the city centre.

“If this continues we won’t be able to get our products out to the levels we can do – putting jobs at risk.

“They need to return two jobs an hour on average to even hit the minimum wage, which when walking in and out of town cuts 20 minutes off that time sometimes making this impossible.”

Needed to survive

Nick West runs a pizza takeaway and says customers also suffer as a result of delivery delays. He said: “Without couriers the business would not survive through the pandemic, I cannot stress that enough – the couriers are so important.

“Car couriers have huge issues as well with parking restrictions and they often cannot wait for me to complete an order for fear of getting a ticket. This will mean the order is passed on to the next available courier, thus prolonging the wait for the customer.”

Christian Taylor, who runs a business in Shambles Market, said: “Since the restrictions have been put in place our Deliveroo, Just Eat etc orders have gone down by a significant amount during the day due to couriers not being able to get to us.

“As a business our sales during the day have gone down dramatically and we rely on these sales. We’re not in a position where we can close because I’m self-employed, I can’t get furlough, and we’re a relatively new business.”

Cycle couriers and their union, York IWGB, have proposed a permit scheme that would allow them to ride on pedestrian streets while they are working.

York Cycle Campaign member Robyn Jankel, said the group supports plans to allow cycling through the pedestrian streets and they it should be extended to all cyclists.

Councillor Pete Kilbane, who said he works as a self-employed cycle courier, suggested couriers be classed as authorised vehicles, which includes Royal Mail vans and other cars, to allow them to use the pedestrianised streets.

Going Dutch

Cllr Andy D’Agorne. Photograph: David Lindsay

Cllr Andy D’Agorne said he thinks a permit system is possible, but not yet.

Transport bosses said they sympathise with the couriers – but that a full review and consultation must be carried out before any changes are made.

Tony Clarke from City of York Council said the pedestrian zone is a safe space and the impact on disabled groups and pedestrians must be considered.

He said: “During the pandemic there is even more need for a public highway space to be available for pedestrians to maintain social distancing.

“Disabled residents and visitors in particular value the status of the footstreets.”

He said organising and enforcing the permit system would need to be considered.

Cllr D’Agorne said: “Fundamentally I do think that a permit system on a clearly defined more north south route could be a compromise, as part of achieving Dutch-style acceptance of bikes as one element of a more vehicle-restricted area.

“However I do accept that we’re not ready to make those changes yet.”