Jake Coppinger / Blog /
The Last Delivery of an UberEats Cyclist, 2020
Last updated: November 24th, 2020. Please leave comments on Hacker News (>6 comments).
Content warning: Description of a death, and photos of the cleaned site of death.
After four cyclists were killed by car drivers in Sydney in the last 2 months, a 37-year-old man from Malaysia was killed at ~6:40pm last night - on my street, 200 metres from my front door, at an intersection I cycle through 2-4 times a day. I would have gone through that intersection within 15 minutes of that time if I didn’t skip a class. If you know me, I’m usually quite outspoken about the dangers cyclists face, but this was absolutely brutal to hear.
They cleaned up the body, but didn’t completely clean up the UberEats meal the man was delivering. The man likely died while earning less than minimum wage - A survey conducted by the Transport Workers’ Union in September found that food deliverers earned an average of just $10.42 an hour after costs. 73% said they were worried about being “seriously hurt or killed” at work.
Content warning: Image of scattered food on road, blue glove likely from police investigation.
An eyewitness account on Reddit:
…I was driving along Cleveland st, and only had a glimpse of what happened: for those of you arguing about PPE - I think there was a helmet - and a crushed head and body, and a twisted bicycle, and, yes, one of those grey food delivery bags all in the middle of Chalmers st. I am crying tonight, because that was someone’s child, friend … a person - who is no more… .
Content warning: Image of fragment of the helmet of the cyclist in the road gutter.
This is a tragedy in itself, but there are also a number of contributing causes at play here:
In NSW, cycling on a footpath is illegal and carries a fine of $114 for those above 15 years of age. Footpath cycling is legal in Queensland, Tasmania, the ACT, the Northern Territory and South Australia.
Gig economy workers have little training and often no insurance. California recently proposed a law to force Uber and other platforms to treat their workers like employees. It narrowly failed to pass after Uber, Lyft and Doordash spent > US$200m campaigning against the law.
Dedicated infrastructure for cyclists is rare in Sydney. Not only are separated bicycle lanes hard to come by, a state government actively removed a cycleway in 2015 (which increased accidents by 400%) and in 2019. Walking and cycling infrastructure typically receives 0.1-2% of transport budgets. Clover Moore is pushing hard on adding new dedicated cycle infrastructure in the City of Sydney - Six pop-up cycleways have been added, which may remain if their is popular support.
Australian car drivers have a unique hatred of cyclists. Cyclists attract a level of vitriol, if not outright malice, reserved for few subjects in the laid back Aussie’s mind. Even Tour de France winner Cadel Evans, a self described “car guy” who has a number of classic and sports cars, said he doesn’t cycle in Sydney due to the culture. Cyclists want to be on the road even less than car drivers want them there, but as stated earlier it is illegal to cycle on the footpath.
Content warning: Image of the street where event took place, recognisable to those who live in Sydney.
Reasons for change
Car crashes are one of the leading causes of death in western countries, and air pollution due to cars killed two times as many people as crashes do in NSW each year - and they didn’t even have a choice. Half of PM10 particle emissions come from tire wear, suspended road dust and brake wear- electric cars (even with regen braking) won’t fix this. In the US, drivers of cars kill more people than guns each year.
NSW has a program called Towards Zero, with the aim of reducing road fatalities to zero. One of the few cities to achieve this goal is Oslo, which reduced pedestrian and cyclist deaths in 2019 to 0 by making the city centre effectively car free, replacing more than 700 parking spots with bike lanes, plants, parks and benches, increasing business.
Content warning: Image of food on the tarmac, and diffracted reflection from fluid likely used to clean the road.
Cars are heavily subsidised in Australia
By the most generous measure, drivers only contribute two-thirds of the cost of the road system through rego and petrol taxes. The damage to a road is proportional to the fourth power of axle weight. Many cyclists also own a car and already pay rego. Contrary to popular belief, cyclists are likely subsidising car users.
Investing in cycle infrastructure/reducing car usage makes economic sense
In one study, for each dollar of investment in cycle focused infrastructure, the best practice policy returns 24 dollars in health, congestion, and air and noise pollution related benefits (Macmillan, A., Connor, J., Witten, K., et al. (2014). The Societal Costs and Benefits of Commuter Bicycling: Simulating the Effects of Specific Policies Using System Dynamics Modeling)
A paper submitted to Infrastructure Australia estimated the value of commuter cycling in Australian capital cities as worth approximately $0.76 per kilometre travelled, equating to $2,667 for each regular commuter. Another paper estimated that converting drivers to cycling in Sydney & Brisbane is worth $0.74 per kilometre, $1,920 per person annually in inner Sydney.
Banning cars on a street in Rome led to 30% increase in retail spending in that street.
There are a lot of things in our current system more inequitable than road pricing in urban areas.
A lot of other cities are reducing car usage
I know this argumentum ad populum, but hey.
The following cities have a congestion tax in their urban core:
Other efforts to reduce car usage:
Content warning: Image of food in the gutter of the road.
Disagree with my argument? Have I missed something or is there a mistake? I'd love to hear, please
contact me at [email protected]. I'm open changing my views if presented with new evidence.