DUBAI // Speedy service must take a back seat to the safety of delivery men on motorcycles, police have told courier companies.
The need to deliver goods as quickly as possible often leads couriers to break the law and ride dangerously, said Maj Gen Mohammed Al Zaffin, head of Dubai traffic police.
“The driver’s safety is more important than delivering orders to customers,” Gen Al Zaffin said.
“It has been noticed that motorcyclists do not generally observe straight lines. They tend to pass from the right, off the roadway.
“They also have a tendency to pass on laned roadways between vehicles in an attempt to avoid traffic congestion, which constitutes a potential threat to their lives and the lives of road users.”
Companies should educate their messengers on the dangers of speeding and stop putting pressure on them to hasten deliveries, he said.
Motorcyclists are required to wear a helmet. Those who do not risk a Dh200 fine and four black points on their licences.
Most riders comply with the law but there are a considerable number who do not, Gen Al Zaffin said.
Last year, 169 tickets were issued in Dubai to drivers who did not wear helmets.
There were 114 accidents involving motorbikes in 2012, about 7 per cent of all traffic accidents.
Seven resulted in death, with 56 drivers suffering minor injuries, 55 moderate injuries and 13 serious injuries.
Such casualties could be avoided, Gen Al Zaffin said.
“Most causes of death for cyclists lie less in the force of the vehicle-bike collision than in the intensity of falling, especially if the driver’s head hits the ground,” he said.
Traffic police fine the offending motorcyclists, not the companies that hire them.
But under UAE labour law, employers must equip employees with adequate means of protection from injuries that might occur during work.
Ensuring riders use their helmets, however, is half the challenge, experts say.
“Most of the [hired] riders I see have the protective gear but often they’re not using it,” said Steve Beattie, general manager of Harley-Davidson UAE. “I think that’s down to education.
“I don’t think we need more laws here but it’s about forcing drivers to obey the rules. The point scheme is great, but we need to see much more enforcement of the law, with zero tolerance and consistent application.”
Couriers are known among the motorcycle community as “wasps”.
“These guys with just no concern for anyone else will just zip through traffic,” Mr Beattie said.
“Part of it I guess is that they’re under time pressure. I’ve seen them pull up on to pavements and ride past traffic lights just to get ahead of traffic.”
Riders say time is an issue because of targets set by their employers.
One driver for a pizza chain in Dubai said such pressure was common.
“We must make the delivery within 30 minutes and sometimes we don’t leave the restaurant until 15 minutes after the order is placed,” he said.
“That gives us only 15 minutes to reach our destination. That’s very little time and sometimes it may even be more than one stop.”
As in most other countries, the only safety gear required by law is a helmet. But riders should also wear bright colours to be more visible, and goggles, gloves and protective clothing.
There are more than 500 Harley-Davidson riders in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, all of whom wear their helmets, Mr Beattie said. About 90 per cent also wear gloves and boots.
While covering up may be impractical because of the climate, it may protect against road rash.
“That’s basically when your arms or legs roll along the road and the road just takes the skin off,” Mr Beattie said. “It’s extremely painful. It’s not going to kill you but it is going to hurt.
“Most of these guys are just wearing a light T-shirt, so I’d hate to think what would happen if they hit the ground.”
Ventilated leather jackets are one option, and although leather is the most effective material even a light summer jacket can offer some form of protection.
“At the end of the day there are certain things you can’t control and things you can, such as your own behaviour and what protection you choose to wear,” Mr Beattie said.
“Where other factors, such as time and the availability of protective gear, may influence some of those decisions made by hired riders, employers share some of that responsibility.”