In the UAE, it has long been possible to have more or less anything you want brought direct to your door. However, the steady rise of centralised online ordering platforms has changed the home-delivery landscape. Now, instead of relying on your favourite local falafel joint for dinner, whole cities have become our personal a la carte menus. Businesses such as Zomato, Talabat and Deliveroo are all about the consumer – quick, efficient and largely hassle-free. The service they offer has become such an integral part of our lives that we now take it for granted. However, a short drive on any of the nation's highways offers a reminder that there are people behind the user-friendly interfaces – in this case, the noble heroes who, astride scooters and motorbikes, do battle every day with trucks, traffic jams and scorching heat to make our mealtimes better.
Theirs is a difficult job, and some of us are not making it any easier. Yesterday, The National spoke to a group of delivery riders about their work. By the very nature of their vehicles, these men are far more vulnerable than other road users, a fact underlined by the 17 motorcyclists who lost their lives on UAE roads last year. The riders detailed aggressive overtaking, dangerous manoeuvres and even hit-and-run accidents as part and parcel of doing their jobs. A recent survey has shown that 77 per cent have experienced motorists dangerously cutting in front of them and that 66 per cent believe that drivers view them with disdain.
Drivers have, of course, responded defensively, taking to social media to produce a laundry list of counter claims against riders. However, the main problem may not be out on the roads. Around the world, delivery riders complain of strict targets and the often unrealistic expectation of customers that their meals should arrive piping hot, moments after they have ordered them. Fear of complaint can drive riders to take risks they would never normally consider. Perhaps it is time that these pressures were eased at corporate level, and that consumers take a moment to put things in perspective and consider the safety of those who serve them. That, after all, is far more important than any burger and fries.