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Deliveroo cyclists : ‘We want to deliver food without thinking we might be robbed or run over’

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Deliveroo cyclists say they feel frightened and unsafe delivering food on the streets of Dublin following the death of Brazilian Thiago Cortes in a fatal hit-and-run on Monday night.

Foreign nationals working for food delivery companies told the Irish Times they’re feeling increasingly nervous about cycling alone through the capital following a spate of attacks and road traffic incidents. Now, after Mr Cortes’ death, some are looking for work elsewhere.

The 28-year-old died after he was hit by a car travelling at speed on the North Wall Quay on Monday. Mr Cortes was delivering food for Deliveroo at the time of the incident and had only started the job a fortnight ago.

Max,* says rumours are now flying around that the hit-and-run vehicle purposely targeted Mr Cortes and that gangs are waiting to jump delivery cyclists at different spots across the city.

Max, who is from Brazil and has worked with Deliveroo for nearly two years, was hospitalised last December after he was hit with a iron stick by a group of youths who stole his bike. He was left without hearing in one ear for a number of weeks and now often feels frightened cycling after dark. This week, his friend who also works with Deliveroo was attacked with a hurl in Dublin 8, he told the Irish Times.

Harassment and attacks

“Honestly we felt that this was something that was going to happen at some stage,” he says in relation to Mr Cortes’ death. “We’ve experienced so much harassment and attacks before this we were kind of expecting it. It feels like we’ve lost a family member, he was so young.”

William Santos, who has worked as a Deliveroo delivery man since 2018, used to love cycling around the city and keeping fit. However, he says cyclists have started learning not to accept deliveries in “dangerous zones” where they are more likely to be harassed or robbed. Mr Santos, who was punched in the face by a man while making a delivery in Inchicore last year, says he frequently make reports to the gardaí but that they often say they cannot follow up on the incident.

“They just tell me I shouldn’t go into that area because it’s dangerous. But I don’t understand how a police officer can’t do anything, we need to know it’s safe when we work.

“Every day we wake up and pray that Gold will bless us so we can have a good day and return home safety. When you work every day in fear it’s difficult.”

Mariana, who preferred not to give her surname, started working with Deliveroo a year ago. She says groups of children regularly throw stones, eggs and most recently, fireworks at her as she passes by. Last May she came off her bike after being hit by vehicle in the city centre.

“I hit my head and hurt my chin and had to rest for a week after because my body was sore. Now every time I’m cycling I think about that and worry it will happen again. I try to cycle slowly but then again, the customer wants their food to arrive straightaway.”

Sleep problems

Mariana started looking for a new job soon after she heard about Mr Cortes’ death. “I tried working on Thursday, I need to pay my rent and my bills, but I could only do it for one hour. I felt extra afraid of cars and confrontations with teenagers. We’re trying to support each other but we fear something bad will happen.”

Shalom*, another Brazilian Deliveroo cyclist, says she has struggled to sleep this week since hearing of Mr Cortes’ death. “Even without having met him it’s like my brother died.”

In May, her husband Joao* was held at knife point while making a food delivery in Dublin 8. “A teenager appeared in front of the motorcycle… he put a knife or tool with a sharp point at his neck and my husband handed the bike over,” she said. The couple are no longer accepting food orders for certain parts of the city and have decided to take a break from Deliveroo for a few days following Mr Cortes’ death.

“We are waiting for things to calm down but deliveries are our only income. We delivery people just want to be able to work in peace. We want to pick up the food and deliver it to the customer without thinking we might be robbed or run over.”

*Speakers requested use of pseudonyms to protect their identity

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