On the Job: Aaliyah Jackson Bikes for Bucks

Freshman Aaliyah Jackson takes advantage of NYU's free bike share program. She uses the bikes for her job as a bike messenger.

Seated atop a one-speed bike with an insulated food carrier at the back, Steinhardt freshman Aaliyah Jackson weaves down the busy streets of New York City to deliver burgers and salads.

Jackson, a Music Technology major, keeps busy — she plays guitar in addition to being involved with campus groups, like the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and hall council. A month into her first semester, Jackson was running dry on funds and decided she needed and steady cash flow with flexible hours. She had heard rumors of door delivery jobs with flexible hours, perfect for a college student with a tight schedule.

Before committing to biking and delivering food around New York City, Jackson took her biking skills for a test ride. She picked up a bike from her dorm’s Bike Share and set out through the busy streets. After a rocky but successful first ride around the city, Jackson made an account on Postmates, a courier service, and picked up her first delivery. But the orders from Postmates weren’t enough. She started working for DoorDash and Caviar as well.

Jackson logs onto Postmates, DoorDash or Caviar and delivers four days a week, and sometimes up to ten times a day. If she’s delivering an order from a fast food restaurant such as Shake Shack, she waits in line with all the other customers and orders the customer’s food herself, paying for the meal with a card sent by the company. But for the more ritzy, high-end restaurants, the delivery service calls the restaurant ahead of time, and Jackson just picks it up.

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Mistakes and accidents are bound to happen while she is rolling through the streets of Manhattan. One night, Jackson was delivering a salad and a drink to a man living in the Village — without a cup holder on her bike.

“I did my best to pack the drink in my food carrier, surrounding the drink with napkins to stabilize it,” Jackson said.

Upon arriving, she began to unload the food and rang his doorbell.

“I looked down and saw a puddle of his drink all around the base of the bag,” Jackson said, “and looked up to see the man at the door. The guy was really nice about it. He said, ‘no problem,’ and still gave me a nice tip.”

While she mainly delivers to people living in lofty Manhattan apartments, one day Jackson found herself delivering to somewhere very different.

“I thought I was just delivering a regular sandwich to a regular customer,” Jackson said. “I started biking and ended up being at the CBS studios where I delivered to a local news anchor. She gave me a cash tip. Cash tips are way better than online tips because you get it immediately.”

Delivering all around New York is certainly not an easy task.

“Finding my way around the city has been a bit of a challenge,” Jackson admits. “All of New York City is a grid pattern except for the West Village. The West Village is a pain to navigate through with all the weirdly angled streets. But I’ve always got Google Maps in my pocket.”

On top of navigating the streets, Jackson has to pilot around the mindless pedestrians.

“You always have to think ahead of the pedestrian,” Jackson said. “The key is to get around the pedestrian before they notice you. If they notice you too early, they want to help but accidents are more likely to happen then.”

Regarding distance, Jackson says the furthest she bikes is a one-and-a-half mile radius from the Washington Square campus.

“If you expect to go 25 blocks, you’ll never be disappointed,” Jackson said.

Whether the outcome is a generous tip or knocking on the door of a local news anchor, Jackson is exploring her new city, interacting with new people and getting paid to do it.

Email Pamela Jew at [email protected]

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