150,000 food delivery riders to get free safety gear

More than 150,000 delivery riders will be offered high-visibility safety gear as part of a $17 million investment by rideshare platform Uber.

The company will launch free safety kits to new and existing bicycle, motorcycle and scooter riders across Australia and New Zealand from Wednesday after designing customised apparel in conjunction with riders and cycling advocates.

The protective equipment will be the latest in a suite of changes by Uber to improve rider safety following the deaths of five delivery riders in 2020, and reports of high injury rates.

Uber Eats Australia general manager Bec Nyst said the company consulted with 40 delivery riders over six months on the design of the products and used SGS Australia to ensure they met safety standards.

The kits, she said, would be offered to riders in stages throughout July.

“We believe that providing easy access to high-quality and highly visible (protective) gear can enhance safety while delivering on Australian and New Zealand roads,” she said.

“We also want to raise awareness of the importance of high quality and comfortable safety equipment and encourage Aussies and Kiwis who commute on two wheels to embrace the use of high-vis safety gear.”

The rider kits will include a vest, rain jacket and food delivery bag, along with a phone mount, bike light and reflective panels.

We Ride Australia national advocacy director Stephen Hodge said the organisation was grateful to contribute to the design of the equipment, saying delivery riders often faced challenging and dangerous road conditions and needed greater protection.

“The areas riders deliver from are often the most congested and have the least infrastructure,” he said.

“Riders have to go out in all conditions, day and night, and the last line of defence is themselves and their visibility.

“Light-reflective gear and having their phones in a place that it doesn’t distract them too much, they’re all important elements of safety.”

Other changes that could improve rider safety, Mr Hodge said, would be to lower speed limits, boost driver awareness, and improve cycling infrastructure.

The protective kits are one of several changes by Uber, including the introduction of rider helmet detection, a bike safety checklist, and changes to its Uber Eats app to disable in-app messaging and disable notifications while in motion.

The changes follow the deaths of five Australian food delivery riders over two months in late 2020 who worked for Uber Eats, Hungry Panda and DoorDash.

A study of injuries suffered by Australian food delivery workers, published in a medical journal last year, also found food delivery riders were injured more often than authorities had recorded.

It found 43 commercial riders went to emergency departments at Macquarie University and St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney between May 2019 and April 2020.

However, only 37 reports were made to SafeWork NSW during the same period.

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