The rise in food delivery services since the pandemic means sidewalks and streets in the Annex have become battlegrounds for space.
Many food delivery people started working in Toronto as restaurants pivoted to food delivery apps during the pandemic, said Sylvain Charlebois, a researcher and professor of food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University.
I see food delivery people ride their bikes on sidewalks, which is “almost inconsiderate and not very nice” for residents, said Cody Tal, an avid cyclist and resident of the Annex neighbourhood.
Cycling on sidewalks is illegal in Toronto, but it has become more common in the Annex, said Danielle D’Ornellas, another Annex resident.
“I’ve lived here seven years, and in the last three years, there have been more cyclists on the sidewalk than I’ve ever seen,” D’Ornellas said. It’s not uncommon to see 10 to 15 bikes parked at a time in front of Monkey Sushi, a popular food app-using restaurant, on weekends, she said.
Toronto City Coun. Dianne Saxe represents the Annex neighbourhood and said she followed up by meeting with four food app delivery companies, including Uber. Each company confirmed that their riders knew it was illegal, Saxe said.
However, at least one food delivery person for Uber Eats, Darpan Parajuli, said that Uber never provided him with such information or warnings. “That is totally fiction,” he said.
Uber Canada’s Corporate Communications Lead Keerthana Rang said in an email statement, that “everyone on the Uber platform is expected to follow the law.”
When someone signs up to be a delivery person with Uber, they agree to know and obey all applicable laws, including the rules of the road, at all times when using Uber’s platform, Rang said.
But delivery people are not always the cause of safety issues on the road, according to William Devine, who delivered food for DoorDash while studying at TMU in 2018.
Devine was out delivering food when he was hit by a car that left him concussed for around three months. “I was biking, and I woke up in an ambulance,” he said.
Since delivering food is a contract job, “there’s no insurance, so I got no money from DoorDash [for his injuries],” Devine said.
Toronto is unsafe for bikers in general, said Devine. You’re “constantly in defence mode” and “anticipating getting hit” while biking, he said.
Parajuli said construction, not food delivery, “is the major issue” regarding road and sidewalk safety in the Annex neighbourhood. Construction makes it difficult for food delivery people to work efficiently, he said.
“If I’m stuck in between construction, it decreases my hourly income,” said Shadan Haris, another food delivery person for Uber Eats who agreed that construction was the problem, not sharing sidewalks.
However, Saxe said construction is “a problem for all cyclists.” She said this includes food delivery people, “but also everybody else- everybody who is taking the kids to school, and going to school themselves, and trying to get to work and doing their shopping.”
“We know we have a massive problem with safety in construction sites,” said Saxe. “I keep hammering away” at Toronto City Council to solve the issue for all street and sidewalk users, including cars, electric vehicles, bikes, pedestrians and people with disabilities, Saxe said.
Food delivery people “do provide a very important service” that is convenient and addresses accessibility issues, said Saxe. However “they cannot do it on sidewalks,” she said.
Graduate student in TMU's Master of Journalism program (2023/24).