How to keep your food delivery cyclists safe

food delivery cyclists
Contributor: Kathryn Hart, Partner at Lime Solicitors

With more restaurants relying on cyclists to deliver orders to customers, the importance of ensuring their safety is paramount. Kathryn Hart, Partner at Lime Solicitors speaks about the ways that restaurants can reduce the likelihood of accidents, as well as what to do if there is one. Here’s what she had to say about keeping food delivery cyclists safe:

As a personal injury solicitor, I frequently act on behalf of injured cyclists who are particularly vulnerable to careless and negligent drivers. Common accidents are being knocked off your bicycle by a left turning vehicle who just doesn’t see you, or by a car that drives too close to you and clips your cycle as they pass. Accidents, when they happen, often result in life changing injuries.

With many food outlets in Tier 3 of the lockdown restrictions now entirely reliant on their takeaway delivery services, the hospitality industry has a considerable responsibility to protect their cycling delivery staff and reduce the risks that they face. You cannot control the behaviour of other road user, but there are many things which are within your control, starting with sensible risk assessment as with any other role in a business.  You need trained, competent staff.  The Highway Code is the obvious place to start.  This is very clear about basic safety principles. You need to ensure the vehicle itself is suitable and is maintained regularly. Who is going to do this and who will record that it has been done? Much delivery service will be in the dark, so the road risks are multiplied.  Ensure that the vehicle has the correct lights and reflectors in accordance with the law.  However, you can go further than that.  You can insist upon your employees wearing reflective or fluorescent clothing so they can be clearly seen. Cycle helmets are not compulsory in law, so you can insist that they are worn and ensure that they are well-fitting. Provision of safety equipment to keep delivery cyclists safe is an employer’s responsibility. 

Should the employee be unfortunate enough to be involved in an accident, there is a real risk that, notwithstanding cycle helmets are not compulsory, their compensation would be reduced on the basis of contributory negligence for not wearing a helmet.  This would depend on the accident circumstances. If the helmet would have made no difference to the injuries anyway (a broken leg) then there is no reduction. If it would have made a real difference then potentially, as with failure to wear a seatbelt, compensation might be reduced by up to 25%.

Don’t set unreasonable targets. If your cyclists are under time pressures, then however well-trained and competent they are they may feel that they have to take risks.  Work culture of this nature can be a real risk to employees.  A good comparison is with manual handling – many employees have basic manual handling training but then in practice are required to lift heavy items in awkward spaces that are far in excess of something that they could ever lift safely. When you ask why they did so, they reply that ”it’s expected and everybody does it”.  Just because they watched a 30 minute video on manual handling doesn’t automatically mean their employers will escape liability for injuries sustained whilst lifting items. The same must be true of delivery targets that can only be met if the cyclist runs every red light. Inevitably your people will be working late shift, so think about work schedules, fatigue and about reasonable expectations.  Don’t expect them to answer their phone whilst on the move even if hands free. It is a distraction when they need to have all their attention on the road.

Ensure that in the event of an accident or (I would suggest) a near miss, your employees know what they are expected to do. Whether injured or not they should report the incident to you. This is how lessons are learned to avoid it happening again and this gives you the chance to update your risk assessment which is, or should be, a working document. If there is any injury you must report the accident to the Police as soon as possible.

Sir Keir Starmer was driving a car that was involved in a collision with a Deliveroo cyclist a few weeks ago. It was news because he happens to be the leader of Her Majesty’s opposition. Some 98 cyclists were killed on our roads in 2019. Most of those will not have been national news.  Regrettably, it now seems likely that figure will be very much higher in 2020.  If so, they will become national news simply because of the sheer numbers.

Contributor: Kathryn Hart, Partner at Lime Solicitors
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