By Hwee Juan
Fast, inexpensive and convenient. That is what all of us want for our food, and what online food delivery companies are aiming for.
Back in 2012, Foodpanda was first launched in Singapore and gradually changed the way people perceived online food deliveries.
Following Foodpanda’s rising popularity, Deliveroo made its way into Singapore’s online food delivery market too, before Uber’s division of online food delivery – UberEats – joined the competition early this year. Clearly, there is a market here for online food delivery services, with Singaporean’s craving for good food “any time, any day”, but with the intense competition between these companies, are there some issues that we are overlooking?
Pretty sure it is not something unique, but food delivery on bicycles have become a common sight in Singapore, and while dismissible as something trivial, we should not dismiss the dangers these cyclists pose to others, as well as themselves.
When Singapore roads were made more bicycle-friendly in 2015, many voiced their concern that cyclists could jeopardize their own safety, as well as other road-users' if unregulated, and hence the implementation of Chapter 276, Section 140 of the Road Traffic Act that specified rules for which cyclists had to follow.
To highlight, some of the primary concerns include the necessity for a ‘suitable protective bicycle helmet’, as well as the mandate that cyclists ride on the left side of the roads lest overtaking.
To apply to work as a rider for online food delivery companies like FoodPanda, UberEats and Deliveroo, is pretty simple: Sign up, Verify, and Voila!
However, the increasing numbers of cyclists ‘riders’ can be a worrying sight, especially when many of them do not follow the regulations of the Road Traffic Act.
Perhaps, the main issue lies in the discrepancies in the use of the word “bike”. In Singapore, the word ‘bike’ may refer to motorbikes, or bicycle, and is often used interchangeably in description. However, on UberEats’ website, there is no mention of bicycles, but only for motorcycles, and an insistence of a license and insurance requirement, while FoodPanda indicates “We will provide a bike if needed”.
Meanwhile, Deliveroo doesn’t seem to have indicated its requirements much on its career opportunities page. Why then, are they allowing cyclists, who are not adhering to the laws, to be making deliveries in Singapore.
Moot point: It is dangerous to be delivering on a bicycle.
Traffic is heavy in Singapore, and for cyclists making food deliveries, it is immensely pressurizing to have to cycle on the roads amidst the traffic while and making sure the deliveries are made on time. Too often, cyclists have been spotted on pedestrian pathways to avoid the peak hour traffic, or narrowly missing an accident when trying to navigate their way around their destination, and sometimes, becoming the hurdle for which bus drivers have to be aware of.
On this rainy Saturday, a delivery cyclist from UberEats was spotted in the middle lane of Victoria Street, without a helmet (please do not tell me a flimsy cap counts as a helmet), nor safety gears of any kind and with his earpiece on. That is a three-in-one violation of the law.
Of course, he does not represent all that make up the delivery cyclists community, as evidenced by the other UberEats cyclist next to him who had a helmet on, but if just one person’s life was jeopardized because of such a silly and completely avoidable mistake, then it is a life wasted.
Before any disastrous incident involving these food delivery cyclists happen, stricter regulations should be made pertaining to these cyclists, not to deprive them of their livelihood, but to ensure they protect themselves from endangering themselves.
With all this talk about electric scooters becoming a nuisance on walkways and roads, it seems like Singapore has a habit of waiting for an issue big enough to stir controversy before deciding to implement policies to prevent history from repeating itself.
However, this time, instead of enacting policies and legislations only in response to something that happened, perhaps taking a pre-emptive action on such possibilities is more advisable? Especially when we know these possibilities are not mere metaphorical, but one of shared lived experiences.