Photo/Illutration A police signboard asks for witness information on a sidewalk where a pedestrian was hit by a bicycle rider in Tokyo’s Nakano Ward on May 14. (Eishi Kado)

The large, square backpacks of Uber Eats deliverers are a welcome sight for hungry residents stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. But for many pedestrians in the capital, the backpacks signal a growing menace.

Demand for food delivery services has increased as restaurants have shut down and residents are avoiding going out to help curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

However, complaints have also risen about dangerous bicycle riding of the delivery people.

On the early afternoon of May 12, Tokyo police received an emergency call about a person with an Uber Eats backpack cycling on Route 4, or the Shinjuku Line, of the Metropolitan Expressway.

The expressway is off-limits to bicycles, but the cyclist continued pedaling toward central Tokyo and exited in Shinjuku Ward, police said.

The following day, the Metropolitan Police Department contacted the Japanese arm of U.S.-based Uber Technologies Inc., which operates the food delivery service, and urged the company to instruct its deliverers to abide by the traffic regulations.

“We will have further activities to raise awareness for road safety,” a company representative said.

But reports about reckless deliverers have continued to come in, police said.

Many of the complaints are about deliverers checking their mobile phones while riding their bikes.

Others have reported Uber Eats cyclists speeding on sidewalks and ignoring traffic signals.

On the afternoon of May 1, a 24-year-old company employee was hit by a bicycle from behind on a sidewalk along the Ome Kaido road in Tokyo’s Nakano Ward.

The bicycle rider fled the scene, police said.

Tokyo police suspect the rider was a food deliverer based on witness information and have opened an investigation.

Although the man was not injured and the sidewalk can be used for bicycles, he could not stifle his anger.

“I could have been injured. I was scared,” the man said. “I want them to follow simple traffic rules.”

An injury did occur in Tokyo’s Itabashi Ward, when an Uber Eats deliverer hit a woman in her 50s on a sidewalk on the afternoon of May 18.

Food delivery service apps, such as Uber Eats, have been used more frequently under the “stay home” requests of local governments.

According to Fuller Inc., a mobile app analytics service company in Kashiwa, Chiba Prefecture, an estimated 400,000 people per day used two food delivery service apps during the week until May 21.

That was about a 70-percent jump from 230,000 during the week until April 7, when the state of emergency over the COVID-19 pandemic was issued.

(This article was written by Yuko Kawasaki and Eishi Kado.)