A recent Australian study has found that bike injuries amongst gig economy workers in New South Wales are higher than what is reported by the state.
Researchers at Macquarie University have used medical records from St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney emergency department to probe the number of bike injuries endured by commercial and non-commercial cyclists.
The researchers analysed 386 hospital records for bike-related injuries sustained by riders between the period 2019-2020.
In an article in The Lighthouse, researcher Dr Mitchell Sarkies said: “For 172 of these records, 46 per cent, we couldn’t confirm their work status; but of the remaining records, we were able to identify 43 (12 per cent) commercial delivery cyclists and 153 (42 per cent) non-commercial cyclists,” said Dr Sarkies.
The number of records for delivery rider injuries is at odds with those of SafeWork NSW, the state's WHS regulator. SafeWork NSW reported just 37 bike-related injuries associated with commercial delivery in the period between 2019-2020.
It should also be emphasized that the researchers’ data came from a single hospital, whereas the data from Safework NSW covers the entire state.
The researchers also found that injured delivery riders more likely to be younger, and 11 times more likely to have a primary language other than English. Dr Sarkies described the high number of delivery rider injuries represented in the hospital records as identifying “a hidden epidemic”.
These alarming findings come after a spate of delivery rider deaths in late 2020, which saw the NSW Government announce a taskforce to investigate road safety in the gig economy. Some companies have also rolled out new safety initiatives.
However, the new research suggests that a stronger, multi-scale approach is required to better protect people delivering goods across the community on a bike. There is an urgent need for safer bike infrastructure, better policy to protect riders from danger, and more support for gig economy workers to ensure they can undertake work without the risk of a crash.
This article was made possible by the support of Bicycle Network's members who enable us to make bike riding better in Australia.