Paris research: 4 out of 10 delivery riders use public shared bike services

The gig economy and digital platforms have developed exponentially over the past few years. In large cities, instant on-demand meal delivery has gained tremendous momentum. Self-employed workers mainly take on this activity; consequently, they provide their own equipment and vehicle, whether their own or a rented vehicle.

The aim of a paper by Camille Krier was to explore delivery riders’ mobility practices in Paris. This research relies on quantitative data from a survey conducted in February 2021 on a sample of more than 500 instant meal delivery riders operating in the northeast district of Paris.

Data allowed the researchers to characterize the mobility of delivery riders in Paris when on the job. Results reveal that 46.4% of them use bicycles and 38.8% of these bicycle riders rely on Paris’ public shared bicycle service Vélib’. Results suggest that the Paris shared bicycle scheme allows them to access an electric bicycle at a cheap price.

This raises several policy questions. First, in the mind of its early promoters, Vélib’ was not designed to serve the needs of professional delivery workers; their use of the service might limit the availability of bicycles for private users, among other operational challenges. Second, Vélib is providing precarious gig workers with a valuable resource to cope with the insecure conditions associated with instant delivery for digital platforms.

Intensive use of Vélib’s shared bicycles by instant meal delivery riders has been observed in recent years. This pattern is criticized as a commercial and diverted service use: delivery workers would monopolize vehicles, especially e-bikes. This paper brings new insights regarding the working conditions of delivery cyclists and points to the need for comprehensive policy interventions at the municipal level.

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