Bicycles faster than motorbikes for deliveries

Mr Fazli, a Foodpanda cyclist, says riding a bicycle is more flexible as he can use the pavement to avoid traffic.
Mr Fazli, a Foodpanda cyclist, says riding a bicycle is more flexible as he can use the pavement to avoid traffic.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

It is lunchtime in Amoy Street in the Central Business District (CBD) and, just as office workers sit down to eat, a delivery rider hefts a backpack full of food and zooms off. This is a common sight in the CBD but, these days, the rider might be on a bicycle rather than a motorbike.

Food-delivery firms are turning to bicycles and electric bicycles to make deliveries - which they say are quicker. Deliveroo announced in August that it would start doing deliveries by bicycle that month - beginning with a fleet of 50 riders serving the River Valley, Tanjong Pagar and City Hall area.

Meanwhile Foodpanda, which has a fleet of 2,500 delivery riders, started bicycle deliveries six months ago. It now has about 150 cyclists and hopes they will eventually make up over a third of its fleet.

"Cyclists work quite well, especially in the CBD," said its chief executive Jakob Angele. "They have more flexibility with parking at malls. With motorbikes, it's very restricted. In traffic, cyclists move equally fast or faster."

The company counts among its 150 cyclists and e-bikers a diverse group of people, including professionals, who are looking for a bit of exercise after work, and students. Most are in their early 20s.

Hiring a cyclist also costs about 30 per cent less than a motorcycle rider, since the company does not have to pay taxes and fees for motorbikes.

At the moment, Foodpanda's cyclists mostly cover the CBD area. Mr Fazli Nasser, 32, says he can deliver about 20 orders by bicycle over the course of a 10-hour shift.

"One thing I like about being a cyclist - you can avoid traffic. It's a bit more flexible because you can go on the pavement," said Mr Fazli, adding that each delivery ranges between 2km and 4km.

"Especially in the central area, there are a lot of one-way roads. If I use a bicycle, I can use the pavement and go through."

The company is also looking into using e-scooters, but is holding off for now as legislation governing the use of these personal mobility devices (PMD) is likely to be tabled in Parliament before the end of the year.

National University of Singapore transport researcher Lee Der Horng said more delivery companies will use PMDs as infrastructure for cycling is developed. "We have been seeing this in Western cities like New York... There, it has already become part of the city."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2016, with the headline 'Bicycles faster than motorbikes for deliveries'. Print Edition | Subscribe