The UK’s leading road safety charity, IAM RoadSmart, is urging food delivery companies that employ gig workers who ride motorcycles, such as Deliveroo and Just Eat, to introduce stronger measures to protect their safety, particularly in challenging weather and road conditions.
This comes after research commissioned by the charity discovered that many Brits believe it is unsafe for motorcyclists to deliver food items in dangerous conditions, such as bad weather, but this doesn’t stop many from placing their orders regardless.
Indeed, around two-thirds (65 per cent) of over 2,000 motorists surveyed thought that it was unsafe for riders to work in snowy weather conditions, and yet only 46 per cent expressed discomfort in actually ordering food in such conditions.
Similarly, 63 per cent of respondents said that it is unsafe for motorcyclists to deliver food when there is poor visibility, such as fog, but only 45 per cent stated that they would feel uncomfortable ordering food when it is foggy outside.
Almost half (48 per cent) of those surveyed deemed rain as another condition that was unsafe for motorcyclists to deliver food in. However, only 34 per cent declared that they would feel uncomfortable requesting a delivery from a motorcyclist on such occasions.
The survey follows concerning research findings* from leading behavioural scientist and transport safety expert at University College London (UCL), Professor Nicola Christie. Her research collected testimonies from those who ride a motorcycle for deliveries, both as an employee and as a member of the gig economy (who are effectively independent contractors).
The study showed that those in the gig economy are not always offered the same protection as employees, in terms of suitable rest periods, risk assessments, appropriate routes for their level of training or access to personal protective equipment (PPE). Due to the pressure of meeting customer demands and delivery platform targets, the riders are often incentivised to work long hours, and offered more money to go out in adverse conditions when demand might be higher – conditions which can heighten the risk of collisions for motorcyclists, who are already more at risk.
Professor Nicola Christie said: “Our interviews with riders confirm some of the biggest concerns around the gig economy. It is clear that there is a growing food delivery industry that offers opportunity to work on a flexible basis. However, this flexibility should not come at the cost of safety. IAM RoadSmart’s survey highlights the risks of this type of work, in that the customer’s convenience is often given priority over the rider’s wellbeing.
“While we look at the sustainability and ethics of how other goods and services are provided, we appear to be missing this in the gig economy. There is an opportunity for the delivery platform companies to take the lead in addressing this issue and put systems in place to protect those out on the road representing their brand.”
One suggestion of how to address this issue is to ensure there is financial support to increase safety provisions, such as additional PPE and advanced training, so the gig economy can potentially move away from higher prices in poor weather that incentivise taking on riskier jobs. IAM RoadSmart’s survey also found that there is an appetite for this kind of support, with almost half (48 per cent) of respondents voicing that they would be prepared to pay more for their deliveries if companies signed up to an ethical standard to help improve safety conditions for its riders.
Neil Greig, Director of Policy and Research at IAM RoadSmart, commented: “It is a tough gig to deliver food on our busy shared streets, and with companies taking varied and inconsistent approaches to safety, Professor Christie’s research demonstrates how there are gaps in the protection offered for gig riders compared to a traditional employed delivery rider.
“Although the public are aware of the risks delivery riders in the gig economy face, this does not appear to have dampened demand. However, nearly half of our respondents are prepared to pay more to enhance safety conditions, which could remove the link between higher income for riskier jobs. Our survey proves that many consumers don’t just want a quick meal delivered to their door, but they also want it delivered in an ethical manner which fully considers the safety of the rider.
“We know this is just one potential solution – but there is much more that could be done, and we want to work with delivery companies to help set a safety standard that works for all: the companies, the customers and the riders.
“If we can have the conversation around appropriate training, PPE, working conditions and pay, together we can help develop a model that allows the industry to continue successfully and safely, and ultimately see less motorcyclists put at risk on our roads.”
The charity recently launched a campaign, in alliance with six bodies from across the industry, to recognise riders as vulnerable road users. For more information visit https://www.iamroadsmart.com/research-and-policy/motorcycle-safety-campaigning-for-change
*Delivering hot food on motorcycles: A mixed method study of the impact of business model on rider behaviour and safety, Professor Nicola Christie