An Open Letter to Jimmy John’s (and Other Bicycle Delivery Operations)
Dear Jimmy John’s (in particular the store at 1 North Meridian Street in Indianapolis) and other Bicycle Delivery Operations:
This letter is not about the fact that I don’t like your sandwiches (which I don’t, but both my father and daughter do, so…). No, that’s not why I’m writing to you. Rather, I’m writing to you for a much simpler, much more fundamental reason: I don’t want to die or get injured while walking around downtown Indianapolis. For that matter, I doubt many other pedestrians out for a casual stroll on a downtown sidewalk really expect that they are putting themselves at risk of injury because of you.
Yes, I understand that part of your shtick is to promise that your food will be delivered really quickly. It’s catchy and your commercials are funny-ish. But you know what? I shouldn’t have to walk in fear of injury because you have a reputation to uphold. Neither I nor any other pedestrian should ever have to jump out of the way as one of your bike delivery people flies by weaving in and out of pedestrians on crowded sidewalks. Nor should we have to nurse bruised elbows or hips that are bumped by a bicycle racing as if it was in the Tour de France rather than delivering a sandwich. And cars shouldn’t have to slam on their brakes to avoid a bicycle that darts out in front of them. Your bicycle delivery people wear helmets; pedestrians shouldn’t need helmets and elbow guards.
Perhaps you should reflect on the old Domino’s promise of free pizza if it took more than 30 minutes for delivery. The company had to abandon that policy in 1993, in part due to a $79 million judgment against the pizza maker. Google it.
Look, I don’t know how things work in other cities. But in downtown Indianapolis, your store is just a half-block south of Monument Circle, a prominent and popular lunchtime gathering spot, especially on nice summer days. People walk around the circle, they eat at one of several restaurants with outdoor dining, and they congregate to talk to friends. Yet even on the most congested days (like today), delivery guys (well, the occasional girl, but not many) race through the crowds, seemingly heedless of the pedestrians scampering to avoid being run over. Those “Yield” signs on the Cultural Trail? Yeah, I’m not sure that your bicycle delivery guys are familiar with them. Today, I walked to the Circle, walked two laps around the Circle, grabbed some lunch, and walked back to my office. And I had to dodge three bikes. Note: I dodged the bikes; they didn’t dodge me. Some other bikes did swerve to avoid me and other pedestrians; but even then, I and others had to worry until the last moment as to whether the bike was going to manage to avoid hitting us. Should I really have to worry as each bike approaches as to whether it will avoid me or whether I need to take evasive action?
Indianapolis is working hard to become a bicycle friendly city. I think that’s a great idea and I’m in favor of bike lanes and efforts to make drivers more aware of bicycles. But you know what? If bicyclists don’t want to be hit by cars, they should probably think about showing similar considerations for pedestrians. We expect cars to yield to pedestrians and bicycles; so too should we expect bicycles to yield to pedestrians.
Now perhaps the bikes that nearly hit me today weren’t being ridden on your behalf; I didn’t stop to ask (though I’m pretty sure that I saw a Jimmy John’s delivery sack carried by at least one of the riders). But you are the most prominent user of bicycles for delivery in downtown Indianapolis. And to quote a friend of mine after I tweeted about the subject (without mentioning your company at all): “A lot of those Jimmy Johns [sic] guys are a-holes.” He made the connection to your business all on his own.
So which is it that you want? The reputation for providing good food quickly … or the reputation for employing reckless “a-holes” to provide that food. It’s your choice.
And a little (snarky) food for thought: Indiana’s “stand your ground” law allows a person to use deadly force “if the person reasonably believes that that force is necessary to prevent serious bodily injury to the person or a third person or the commission of a forcible felony”. Now I’m certainly not suggesting that anyone kill your bicycle delivery guys, but it would seem that a pre-emptive well-placed elbow or kick to a wheel, if delivered for the purpose of preventing a bicycle from hitting someone just might be justified. I mean, if I’m a pedestrian, shouldn’t I have the right to stand my ground before I or another pedestrian is run over by your bicycle? Note: I’m not advocating violence and I don’t really think that hitting or kicking a passing bike rider is acceptable; rather, I’m making a point (related to several issues, actually…) by going way, way over the top. Snark, people. Snark.
Anyway, perhaps it is time to re-think your delivery strategy or at least re-think how it’s implemented. Maybe a little more training for your delivery people? Maybe instructions to stay off crowded sidewalks? Maybe just telling them to slow down when pedestrians are around. Because, you know, the headline in the newspaper that Jimmy John’s has to pay a massive punitive damages judgment because one of its bicycle delivery people ran over a little old lady walking out of the Hilbert Circle Theater won’t really be good for business. And that would be a shame because both my daughter and father like your sandwiches, even if I don’t.