I do not envy the men who bring me my food, but I do wish they valued their lives a little more.
In a motorbike versus sedan confrontation, the delivery guy will lose, and he will lose badly, and he will lose badly every time.
These men risk their lives as many as 40 times a day. It would be bad enough if they placed their lives in their own hands, but they put place them in the hands of UAE motorists.
Far too often, I see these men on machines that are obviously not in the best condition, wearing flipflops or sporting helmets that have no chin strap. They drive on the hard shoulder, they zip along too fast, they ride in the same lane next to a car and they weave in and out of traffic. At red lights, they do whatever they can to crawl to the front of the line so they are the first to go.
In March, arabianbusiness.com reported that the Traffic Department at Dubai Police said motorbike accidents resulted in 26 fatalities in 2015 and 2016. It also showed that motorbikes were involved in 824 traffic offences in 2016.
On June 6, the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) — to improve safety for motorbike delivery drivers — will start enforcing new specifications for delivery boxes on the bikes. The new law will look to mandate the dimensions of the rear box to avoid misbalancing the motorbike, the RTA said.
In addition to the new specifications on boxes, plenty else is happening on the roads this summer.
Ramadan will soon be upon us and that presents its own set of challenges for drivers as people hurry to reach the destination where they will break their fast at iftar. Then, on July 1, the cost of many traffic fines will increase.
Despite all these changes, the only way to see an improvement on the roads is to change attitudes.
Luca Cima is a motorcycle rider as well as a safety driving instructor at Dubai Autodrome and the Yas Marina Circuit. He says the fleet of delivery motorbike riders in the UAE has increased steadily over the past few years, partly as a result of food delivery apps. Contrast this with the lack of a two-wheel culture in Dubai and you have the makings for a perfect storm.
“In UAE history, transportation on public tarmac roads is on four wheels. Period,” Cima says. “The riders of these modest 150cc motorbikes are all coming from countries were two-wheel mobility is common because it is cheaper and practical.
“These riders come from environments were speed is slower, roads are smaller and car drivers pay attention and respect bikers, since they know how dangerous riding can be.
The only way the situation will change is with time and education, he says.
One company is doing what it can to teach its employees as well as UAE motorists. In April 2016, Freedom Pizza introduced a campaign designed to promote a safe driving culture for its motorbike delivery guys as well as for all drivers on the UAE roads. The company’s YouTube video says it all:
Thomas Edelman, founder and managing director of RoadSafetyUAE, says motorcycle delivery safety is a big concern in the Emirates.
“Each day, thousands of deliverymen across the country cope with life-threatening, work-related risks. The pressures of the job are constant: dangerous encounters with motorists and long hours in return for wages and occasional tips. This pressure — and the fear of getting scolded by their employers — can make them literally zigzag through traffic, risking their lives and those of others.”
Life on the roads can be hectic, but everyone needs to recognise that there is a common goal — reach our destination.
Says Cima: “These brave riders find themselves on roads in the UAE without proper training and… find themselves surrounded by much faster vehicles and impatient drivers.”
The only part of that statement that can be changed is the impatient drivers. And that is all of us.
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