Deliveroo is set to introduce safety measures to protect riders from violence, following multiple acid attacks in London last month, where two victims were gig economy riders. The measures include a new feature in the rider app that lets deliverers raise security concerns and the trialling of helmet cameras to collect evidence. The company is also hiring 50 new staff to focus on rider safety.
This is a much welcomed development, as some riders are actively avoiding particular areas. Whilst I personally haven’t experienced anything concerning, where I work in central London is well lit, busy and many customers are offices, unlike other areas of the city. It is also encouraging to see Deliveroo riders meeting with Air Ambulance representatives and the police to discuss the specific issues they face. It’s this kind of dialogue between groups that can help the gig economy continually improve.
However, safety in the gig economy is often secondary to other aspects such as pay. With the majority of riders being paid per delivery, as opposed to per hour, there’s greater emphasis on riding quicker to finish one order and begin another. I’ve also seen no information from companies on how deliveries are assigned to riders through the app, and whether average delivery time has any influence on this. If it does, there’s even greater pressure to be quick, which can mean rider safety is diminished.
Moped riders are also particularly vulnerable to unsafe situations, as their vehicle is often targeted, like in the recent acid attacks. A method of transport (bicycle or moped) is fundamental to working in the food gig economy and because no compensation is provided for equipment, riders have to fork out for anything new. This could then increase the pressure to work more, and quicker, to regain the lost wages and offset the cost of a new vehicle. This all accumulates to mean safety is always on the mind of riders. Additionally, a lack of sick pay means deliverers may return to work before they have fully recovered, putting their long-term health at risk.
Although not a direct purpose of using helmet cameras, they might have a secondary benefit in encouraging riders to wear helmets, something that seems uncommon for many riders and that companies have limited ability to enforce. Cameras might also encourage other road users to take more care in overtaking, as they are being filmed.
Delivering will never be completely safe, due to the nature of riding in a city and of the gig economy as a whole, but it’s good to see progress being made. Other platforms have been silent on this issue but, as one rider in the acid attack was working for UberEATS, hopefully they will follow Deliveroo’s suit.
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