BICYCLE couriers delivering food, medicine and supplies are calling for permit passes to allow them to cycle on pedestrianised streets in the city centre.

Riders say they are vital to help keep York's restaurants in business during the lockdown - but risk losing pay from their employers when they arrive at customers' homes late.

Cristian Santabarbara, speaking on behalf of York IWGB union representing couriers, said he and his colleagues face "a real choice between a fixed penalty notice or destitution" as they are under pressure to meet tight delivery deadlines.

He asked a council meeting if couriers working in the gig economy could be given "urgent" access to Blake Street, Coney Street and Lendal. Cycling is not permitted on most of York's pedestrianised streets.

He said the algorithms used by couriers' employers to calculate delivery times do not take pedestrian zones or other delays into account.

"In regular times our work contributes to about one third of a restaurant's revenue," he said. "In lockdown, we contribute significantly more.

"York's restaurants are relying on us. That revenue is generated literally off our backs.

"Bicycles couriers contribute significantly to their ability to pay wages, rent and keep going."

He added that many residents also rely on deliveries and added: "We are just trying to survive the pandemic like everybody else.

"We understand that this measure is scary, difficult and contentious. But we need the council's help. Please help us help York."

Cllr Andy D'Agorne said a meeting about the request to lift the ban for cycle couriers was due to take place yesterday afternoon.

He said he would update York IWGB after the meeting, adding: "Whilst I am sympathetic to their requests for flexibility during the footstreets hours to support the hospitality sector, I have been advised that this needs to be discussed in a bit more detail with other executive members and senior officers, rather than making a decision here at this meeting."