WHOLE FOOLS! Amazon Stealing Space from Pedestrians on Houston

Whole Foods parks bike on the sidewalk on Houston Street all day...
Whole Foods parks bike on the sidewalk on Houston Street all day...
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Who runs Amazon — Bezos or Bozos?

One day after the city announced the launch of a corporate cargo-bike delivery effort, Streetsblog learned that the pilot program’s biggest participant — Amazon — has commandeered the egregiously narrow sidewalk in front of its Whole Foods store on Houston Street for the loading and unloading of bikes to deliver groceries to well-to-do customers.

As a result, pedestrians are sidelined.

The problem: Amazon has a dozen or so bikes that operate out of the upscale supermarket — but the city has not yet created curbside space as a staging area for the efficient delivery program. Instead of a “No parking — bike loading” zone, the south side of Houston between Chrystie Street and the Bowery is still set aside as free parking for privately owned cars all day and night (except for three overnight hours three times per week).

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The parking spaces aren’t even metered!

As a result, Amazon loads up its bikes on a crowded sidewalk that is already too narrow to handle the hordes of shoppers and other pedestrians just trying to get through the squeeze or to the F-train entrance at Chrystie Street.

“It is appalling and dangerous,” said one worker in the area, who requested anonymity because she often shops at the Whole Foods and doesn’t want to be hassled. “I’m almost hit by cars [after being forced into the roadway] at least once a week. It’s a dangerous spot.”

The conditions seem to persist all day; the neighborhood worker sent over daytime pictures, and Streetsblog confirmed the danger in a visit on Thursday night at 5:30 p.m.

But the area worker added that her concern was not limited to just this one location.

“Pedestrians and cyclists and important programs such as this one — and people of color who often work as delivery cyclists — are always forced to fight for crumbs on a road six car lanes wide,” she said. “It’s really upsetting to see. We should all be against cars, not against delivery couriers [so] the city should take away parking and give proper storage to the bikes. Also, fuck Amazon, since they brought that here.”

A spokeswoman for Amazon said that the company will work with the Department of Transportation to find dedicated space for the cargo bikes. The company reiterated that its e-bike delivery system — which features about 90 cargo bikes — is a huge part of its short-term goal of completely eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from its delivery fleet.

Given that the city’s goal is also to reduce the deleterious effects of big trucks, it would make sense for the city to create staging areas where the bikes can be parked without adversely affecting pedestrians.

The Department of Transportation has said it would create free parking for the cargo bikes, but did not get back to Streetsblog for this specific, quick-hit, first draft of history.

The otherwise much-lauded pilot program announced this week includes about 90 cargo e-bikes operated by Amazon for its Whole Food deliveries, plus three DHL bikes and two UPS bikes that will shortly be put into service. Some of the logistics have not been worked out yet to ensure that one problem (trucks endangering cyclists by shoving them into traffic) isn’t being replaced by another (bikes endangering pedestrians by shoving them into traffic).

It should be, though.

“We like the idea DOT broached earlier this week: give parking spaces to the cargo bikes!” said Jon Orcutt, the spokesman for Bike New York. “Let’s see nimble government in action as it works with Amazon to get the bikes and trailers off the sidewalk and onto the street at this particular spot.”

Concerned members of the public can email the DOT’s freight team at freightmobility@dot.nyc.gov to report other such issues with the cargo bike pilot.


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