Bicycle Coalition member and delivery worker, Amy, has been bringing food to peoples’ houses before she even owned a bicycle. Now, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, she’s taking extra precautions to make sure the people she serves, and the restaurants she picks up from, are safe. We reached out to her to get a sense of what’s it’s like delivering food these days and what customers around Philadelphia can do for their delivery workers at this time.
How has your delivery routine changed (if at all) during the pandemic?
I used to go out to deliver about four-to-five nights a week, but now I usually do just two over the weekend. Biking, which I use to help manage my anxiety, now causes more as I prepare to leave my apartment. I worry about being exposed, or even worse what if I am an asymptomatic and exposing others? Also, while there are fewer cars on the streets, drivers are driving on Center City streets at 50+mph and behaving more recklessly than I’ve ever seen.
I have a whole routine now involving wiping down my bag between order, using fresh gloves every time I pick up a bag, and carrying a wipe if I have to use my other hand to touch anything. Every time I bring my bike back in, I disinfect everything.
Another big change in the process is that I insist that customers come to the front door so I do not have to cross any threshold. It may seem like overkill to some, but If I’m going into five or six high-rises a night — double that in elevator rides with others — I’ve now been exposed to anything left behind in all those communal areas by 1000s of people. I want to protect myself, the customer I am delivering to, and the rest of the customers I’ll deliver to that night.
How have customers been reacting to you thus far?
Because most customers realize these changes in the normal process are because of the current pandemic all over the world, most are accommodating. They know I would normally come to their apartment door and I would never put their food on the ground for them to pick up like some Dim Sum hostage exchange, but don’t complain. There are a handful … who get so upset that they are not handed food at their 32nd floor apartment door they threaten to report me and not tip me.
What’s it like heading into restaurants at this point? Have you noticed anything different?
Most restaurants aren’t letting couriers inside the restaurants or have a table set up right inside. It gets hard when they get backed up on deliveries and lots of couriers show up at once. While I am making deliveries, if I see a bottleneck of couriers at a restaurant, I won’t accept jobs from them that night. Unfortunately, some people are not as aware of social distancing as others.
What’s the one thing you would want all Philadelphians to know about delivery cyclists during the pandemic?
Drivers: slow down.
Customers: tip. I see a lot of lip service on Twitter and such about tipping delivery people, but it is not translating into real world money. No one should be tipping less than $5 right now, no matter what you are ordering.
We are out there so you don’t have to be. For a lot of couriers, this is their only income. Some are going home to kids. So, if your courier seems overly cautious remember it is not just about you. We are all just trying to get through this and stay safe.