Abu Dhabi: They show up at doorsteps across the country, bringing us deliveries that comfort and satiate. However, a total of 13 motorbike delivery rider fatalities were recorded in Abu Dhabi in 2020 — up from nine fatalities in 2019.
A number of risky rider behaviours, combined with a sudden and significant growth in the sector during the COVID-19 pandemic, were behind these fatalities.
Now, in an attempt to ensure the safety of these deliverymen, who have become an essential part of the food and beverages sector, the emirate’s Joint Committee for Traffic Safety has launched a series of workshops that aim to encourage safer motorbike rider behaviour. In addition to educating riders employed by food delivery services, restaurants, courier firms and consumer goods stores, authorities will also collect feedback from the riders about the challenges they face during working hours.
Focus on PPE
The first workshop focused on the use of rider gear and personal protective equipment, including helmets, gloves, jackets and heavy-duty boots. Upcoming sessions will encourage safer motorcycle rider behaviour on the roads, including adherence to speed limits and traffic regulations.
“There has been a significant increase in the number of delivery riders on motorbikes last year in order to cater to the rise in demand for deliveries during the COVID-19 pandemic. This increase has resulted in more fatalities and accidents among this group of personnel, and we want to put a stop to these tragedies,” said Sumaya Neyadi, head of the Road Safety Section at the Department of Municipalities and Transport’s Integrated Transport Centre (ITC).
In addition to ITC, the Joint Committee also includes Abu Dhabi Police and the Department of Health (DoH).
“We have noted a number of reckless rider behaviours and our first target is to address these. For instance, many riders wear slippers and sandals, when they should be wearing appropriate PPE [personal protective equipment] that includes boots, gloves and handles. Another behaviour we would like to curb is overtaking other vehicles,” Neyadi said on the sidelines of the awareness sessions.
Delivery riders from Talabat and Deliveroo, two of Abu Dhabi’s most prominent app-based food delivery companies, were in attendance at the first workshop. Following the information section of the session, a number of bike riders attending the event pointed out the issues they faced on the roads, including lack of traffic light response to bikes.
“As we educate the riders, we also want to make the job easier and safer for them. This is why we are collecting feedback as well,” Neyadi said.
Chiring Tamang, 31, arrived in the UAE from Nepal in 2006. After working as a sandwich artiste for years, he switched to making food deliveries for Deliveroo earlier this year. “I make between 18-27 food deliveries every day, working up to 15 hours in downtown Abu Dhabi. The job is pleasant and I can save to support my parents back home,” he told Gulf News.
Tamang said he was happy with his job switch and even recently took the National Day off to celebrate with his friends. “I would love to open up my own restaurant one day and I hope my earnings will add up so I can realise that dream,” he said. Asked what he would expect from the clients he served, Tamang said it was access to accurate information. “It really helps if we have the right location for the delivery and a reachable contact number. Using these, we can deliver promptly, and this also ensures customer satisfaction,” Tamang said.
“As riders, I believe we should also be respectful to other motorists on the road and to other people we encounter when waiting at restaurants to pick up deliveries,” he added.
Grateful to patient customers
Matiur Rahman, who works with Talabat, said he tried his best to always make his deliveries on time. “I feel grateful towards customers who are patient and cordial towards us riders. For our part, we try to serve clients as best as we can,” he said, before reiterating that it was always helpful to have full delivery information for each customer.
The 26-year-old from Pakistan has been working as a delivery rider in Abu Dhabi since 2019.
“I’ve been riding a bike for more than eight years and came to the UAE to support my parents and two younger brothers. I now make up to Dh5,000 a month, and after paying my rent and meeting other basic expenses, I send around Dh2,500 to my family every month,” he said.
A new policy that regulates driver behaviour and delivery company operations is, meanwhile, set to be launched this year. “For instance, delivery companies need to provide the protective gear for bike riders. We will also call for safeguards that reduce stress on riders from having to meet their delivery times, thereby reducing their need to speed and overtake others on the road,” Neyadi explained.
In addition, the policy will also regulate working hours, distances covered on the job and leaves.
In the meantime, the Joint Committee will begin handing out up to 65 awards to delivery riders who adhere to traffic regulations and wear proper PPE while on the job.
In the future, fines and penalties may be introduced if these minimum safety requirements are not followed, officials cautioned.