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Industry responds to NYC ‘Department of Sustainable Delivery’

Players in the last-mile delivery and micromobility space have responded to the ‘Department of Sustainable Delivery’ that New York City is set to launch.

In his third State of the City address, New York City Mayor Eric Adams called for this municipal department to be responsible for regulating commercial delivery services carried out by micromobility vehicles. The advent of this aims to address fears of pedestrian and rider safety, risks of e-bike battery fires, and workers’ rights.

Having signed five bills in March 2023 to regulate the sale of lithium-ion batteries sold in New York City, Mayor Adams anticipates that the creation of this new department will be able to further enforce safety standards for these batteries.

Tier’s Senior Director of Public Policy and Communications Benjamin Bell told Zag Daily: “While delivery is distinct from the micro-mobility space we serve, growing acceptance of the permanence of two wheels in the urban landscape is welcome. We believe in regulation that cuts the risk of dangerous riding and raises safety standards more broadly, while encouraging uptake of non-car travel.

“The key to success for the Department will be striking the right balance in the rules, but in principle New York City is taking steps in the right direction and is to be applauded.”

For Zag Industry Expert and Mobility Consultant Lars Christian Grødem-Olsen, striking a balance is also necessary when it comes to legislating on micromobility. Institutional action to support gig workers is also certainly welcome for Lars.

“The government serves the purpose of addressing market failures, and facilitating gig work in the delivery sector is a clear example of this. There is a pressing need, particularly in logistics, to prevent workers from earning below the minimum wage or putting themselves in harm’s way. Consequently, I am pleased to learn that NYC is establishing a Department of Sustainable Delivery to address these concerns,” Lars said.

“However, it is crucial to strike a balance, as government officials sometimes become enamoured with their own ideas rather than formulating regulations based on validated expert knowledge.”

For Brandon Schuh, Senior Vice President of insurance firm Christensen Group: “This area of transportation is more in need of an association group rather than a department that regulates the space.”

Brandon told Zag Daily that the Taxi and Limousine Commission, the New York City agency which regulated yellow cabs and for-hire vehicle industries, overreached in the past with requirements that were overly aggressive and draconian.

Therefore a regulatory department comes with some scepticism.  

“I think there are pros and cons to this sort of government underpinning to the last mile infrastructure. It can certainly help with messaging and making sure the public’s persona of the industry continues to gain in appeal.”

Brandon also welcomes a helping hand from the government with regards to legislating on bike lane infrastructure.

However, “progress is rarely accelerated by regulatory bodies,” he said.

“That doesn’t mean it’s unnecessary, but I would be hard pressed to believe that it will be a catalyst for growth.”

New York City Hall and City Council are expected to work together in the coming months to convene a task force which assists with the drafting of the office’s regulatory mission.

Ellen Kennedy, Carbon-Free Transportation Principal at the non-profit organisation Rocky Mountain Institute, told Zag Daily: “While adoption of e-bikes is growing, we must be thinking of e-bike safety both in terms of infrastructure and operation. 

“In addition to establishing battery standards for various e-bike models and underlining the importance of safe infrastructure in which to ride and charge e-bikes, regulation could build momentum for the micromobility transition.” 

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