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Road collisions more likely for takeaway delivery riders working in the gig economy

11 November 2022

Motorcyclists delivering hot food who pick up jobs through digital platforms are more likely to be in a collision where their bike is damaged or someone is injured than those directly employed by restaurants, finds research by UCL.

Freelance delivery riders are also more likely to report that time pressure from their employer means they are more likely to speed (56% versus 39%) or ride through red lights (21% versus 12%). They are also more likely to report being distracted by their phone, through which they accept jobs (57% versus 21%).

Food delivery is surging in popularity in the UK, with many takeaway services using motorcyclists or cyclists, both of whom are amongst the most vulnerable road users. Motorbike riders account for 20% of UK road deaths and are 50 times more likely than car occupants to die in a road collision.

Gig riders are three times as likely to report damage to their vehicle in a collision, at 25% versus 7% for employed riders. They are nearly twice as likely to report an injury, either to themselves or someone else involved in the collision, at 11% versus 6%.

In the paper, published in Safety Science, researchers found that the increased safety risks gig workers face and the additional risks they take are down to several factors. These include companies paying less attention to the safety and wellbeing of riders and paying them per delivery rather than for time worked, placing them under pressure to carry out more deliveries. Riders also report being incentivised to accept deliveries and ride in wet and icy conditions.