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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 December 2018

Motorbike delivery riders fear for lives on UAE roads

Workers say they are at the mercy of other motorists as they transport items to customers

Ranil Suresh, Sajjad Ahmad and Diadarul Haque, delivery riders for Freedom Pizza, at Dubai Marina. Pawan Singh / The National 
Ranil Suresh, Sajjad Ahmad and Diadarul Haque, delivery riders for Freedom Pizza, at Dubai Marina. Pawan Singh / The National 

Motorbike delivery riders in the UAE have blasted reckless motorists who they say are putting their lives at risk on a daily basis.

Workers for leading food-delivery companies feel they are dicing with danger every time they hit the road, with many suffering injuries in the line of duty.

In a survey conducted by campaign group RoadSafetyUAE last year, 77 per cent of delivery riders said other vehicles cut in front of them on a regular basis, with 68 per cent believing other motorists are inconsiderate to them.

Seventeen motorcycle riders were killed and 122 accidents took place on Dubai's roads last year, according to police.

Officers in Abu Dhabi have led calls for riders to take more care on the roads after revealing motorcycles were involved in 682 accidents in the past five years, resulting in 42 fatalities.

In 2017, Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) introduced regulations to reduce delivery motorbike accidents, including barring pillion passengers and ensuring phosphoric reflector strips were attached to bikes, according to dimensions specified by the authority.

Motorbike delivery riders are a familiar presence on the roads because of the country's takeaway culture, but many of them feel other road users make travelling to and from orders "dangerous".

Riders and delivery bosses agree roads need to be made safer, whether travellers are using two wheels or four.

“I actually suffered a serious injury when one driver pulled out in front of me in their car without indicating,” said Mohammed, 28, from Pakistan, who works for one of the most popular delivery services in Dubai.

“I broke my collarbone, and often we encounter drivers who are travelling too fast and then have to brake too hard at the last minute.

“Drivers in Dubai are always going far too fast and regularly don’t even bother waiting for a light to go green before taking off at traffic lights. This makes life dangerous for me and my colleagues on the roads here.”

Delivery riders face daily challenges on the UAE's roads. Pawan Singh / The National (stock photo)
Delivery riders face daily challenges on the UAE's roads. Pawan Singh / The National (stock photo)

One company that has placed driver safety at the top of its agenda is Freedom Pizza, which has a fleet of more than 200 delivery riders in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.

Sajjad Ahmad, 23, a Dubai-based rider for Freedom Pizza, said he was injured in a collision with a car.

“I was driving in Dubai when I was hit on the side by another car that had pulled out in front of me after making a wrong turn,” he said.

“The car was travelling at least 60kph at a roundabout and turned at the last minute, even though they were in the wrong lane. The other person got out of their car, looked at me and told me I was OK, even though I wasn’t, and drove off.

“When I am making a delivery, I have to take extra care of myself because my family is relying on me to send money home.”

It is not just other motorists who are threats. Sometimes delivery riders feel under pressure to make a delivery on time.

“I often see delivery riders from other companies driving very dangerously in and out of lanes that they shouldn’t be going into,” said Mr Ahmad's colleague Diadarul Haque, 31, from Bangladesh.

Mr Haque said this was because other companies pay riders by the amount of deliveries they make, which gives drivers more reason to speed.

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Read more:

Calls for mandatory high-vis jackets for UAE delivery drivers

Extra training for motorcyclists, truck drivers and the elderly

Take away for motorcycle deliverers in Dubai: drive safely if you want to keep making tips

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All the companies The National spoke to said the safety of delivery drivers was a paramount concern for them.

“Motorcycle riders are inherently more vulnerable than other drivers on the road. They are more easily affected by adverse street conditions, inclement weather, traffic flow and high speeds,” said Anis Harb, Deliveroo general manager for the region, who has 1,400 riders in the UAE alone.

Sanal Pchikaran, Mohammed Zubari and Jhomar Dizon, delivery riders at the McDonald’s branch in Jumeirah, Dubai.  
Sanal Pchikaran, Mohammed Zubari and Jhomar Dizon, delivery riders at the McDonald’s branch in Jumeirah, Dubai.  

Walid Fakih, general manager of McDonald's in the UAE, oversees a fleet of more than 1,300 riders and said the firm likes to train riders "from scratch" to reach their safety standards.

"We prefer to train drivers from scratch because we find riders who have worked for some other companies in the region often had bad habits on the road.

"For us, it is a case of rider safety first and customer satisfaction second."

Damien Drap, Uber Eats' general manager in the GCC, agreed that the safety of drivers was a priority.

“If we receive reports of any courier driving dangerously or breaking local road laws, we can take action to remove their access to the Uber Eats app.”

Ian Ohan, chief executive and founder of Freedom Pizza, who is a motorcycle enthusiast himself, said his company equipped each driver with knee, elbow, shoulder and thigh pads, as well as back protectors, to keep the risk of injuries to a minimum.

“If you are a motorcyclist and you are involved in an accident with a car or lorry, you are always going to be more hurt than they are, even if the accident is not your fault.”

He recognises the delivery service can be a highly pressurised environment, which is why he insists on reminding drivers of their obligations.

“Every driver has to say ‘I will drive safe’ before they leave to go on a delivery.”

Customers have role to play in safety fight

The attitude of customers also has a significant role to play when it comes to the safety of delivery motorbike riders.

Thomas Edelmann, managing director of RoadSafetyUAE, said riders felt under pressure to get the food delivered by a certain time or else incur the wrath of irate customers.

“We asked delivery riders for their views on customers in our most recent survey. We asked them what they thought the customers expected,” he said.

“The delivery riders believe that customers are only interested in getting their food as quickly as possible and are not concerned with the safety of the riders.”

Mr Edelmann said this mindset fuels misbehaviour from delivery riders, who believe they are in a race to beat the clock.

“If a delivery rider believes a customer will be upset if their food is not delivered, they will be tempted to break the rules.”