Supervisor Shocked to Hear Uber and Lyft Violate Bike and Transit Lanes

SFPD Report Should Surprise No One Who Bikes and Takes Transit in San Francisco

Drop offs and pickups almost continually block the bike lanes on Valencia during the peak hour. Photo: Streetsblog.
Drop offs and pickups almost continually block the bike lanes on Valencia during the peak hour. Photo: Streetsblog.

Some two-thirds of citations for driving in transit lanes and bike lanes, failing to yield to pedestrians, and other motor vehicle violations, are issued to Transportation Network Company (TNC) cars such as Uber and Lyft–this according to a study from the police department of violations in downtown San Francisco.

The findings were presented at yesterday’s regular meeting of the Board of Supervisors’ Land Use and Transportation Committee.

Here’s the breakdown from the SFPD report:

Source: SFPD/via GovTV
Source: SFPD/via GovTV

Commander Robert O’Sullivan, San Francisco police liaison to the SFMTA, said (as shown in the above graphic) that the study ran from April 1 to June 30. Out of 2,656 citations, 1,723 were done by cars with Uber and Lyft stickers.

What makes the numbers so shocking, said Supervisor Aaron Peskin, is that they are so disproportionate. “You have one out of four cars being a TNC in the district I represent,” he said. “You would think the number of violations would be the same, one out of four, but what you’re seeing is the opposite–almost three out of four are TNC drivers.”

O’Sullivan assured the supervisor that officers are not targeting TNCs. Instead, they simply recorded which cars had Uber or Lyft stickers when they wrote the citations.

Commander O'Sullivan presenting the TNC report. Image: SF GovTV
Commander O’Sullivan presenting the TNC report. Image: SF GovTV

Of course, the report is not surprising to advocates in the safe-streets community, which even has a Twitter feed for Uber/Lyft violations. Over a year ago, a group of volunteers, lead by Catherine Orland, District 9 representative to the Bicycle Advisory Committee and longtime member and volunteer with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, tabulated similar results about TNCs (and others) blocking the bike lanes on Valencia. “I’m glad SFPD is collecting data,” she said to Streetsblog. “Data is an integral part of achieving Vision Zero.”

“It was really astonishing to see the number of TNCs that routinely use the bike lane as the drop off spot with no regard to the fact that cyclists are using it,” said Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, who sits on the committee. He joined a protest for protected bike lanes on Valencia this month.

“These numbers confirm what our members experience on the streets of San Francisco everyday: Uber and Lyft drivers violating the law and threatening the safety of people who bike and walk. Now that SFPD data proves they are doing so in numbers far disproportionate to their share of traffic volume, this should be a wake-up call to the city and the industry,” wrote Brian Wiedenmeier, the SF Bike Coalition’s executive director, in an email to Streetsblog.

“Supervisors discussed concerns we at Uber share, namely how best to address traffic congestion and improve public safety on San Francisco streets. Uber is committed to being an active partner in working to make improvements in these areas. Every day in San Francisco, thousands of people use Uber in ways that complement–rather than compete with–public transit, bicycling and walking. Our aim is to continue contributing to a robust, multi-modal transportation network that works well for everyone,” wrote Alex Randolph, Uber public policy manager, in an email. And Chelsea Harrison, communications manager for Lyft, wrote that: “We are supportive of holistic efforts to address congestion and have been in conversations with city officials for months to engage collaboratively on a pilot program to do just that.”

Meanwhile, Jeff Hobson, Deputy Director for Planning for the County Transportation Authority, explained at the committee meeting that San Francisco has few real means to control TNCs, which are regulated by the state like any other privately owned car. Peskin said he will ask the City Attorney to look into suing. “This is a pattern and practice of thwarting public safety laws. There’s got to be a legal path here if the state will not allow us to regulate TNCs.”

Streetsblog would like to point out that while San Francisco currently has little power to regulate TNCs, aside from continuing to issue citations, it can, obviously, regulate street design. As the human-protected bike lane protests have shown, TNCs aren’t an issue when they are physically prevented from stopping in a bike lane. Properly designed protected bike lanes and intersections can make much of this a moot point. And banning private cars from Market Street will make much of this a moot point too–more so if the Supervisors and SFMTA have the fortitude to ban all cars, instead of just privately owned ones. Continuing to do studies and discuss parking needs, and tearing out unofficial safe-hit posts, instead of installing protected bike lanes as quickly as possible–not so much.

“How many cyclist have to be injured on high injury corridors before action is taken,” said Orland, who wants to see protected bike lanes installed and Uber and Lyft reigned in by regulators. “Some people are only persuaded by hard data. Now the safety of San Francisco’s residents has to be prioritized.”

  • jonobate

    Remove parking to create passenger pickup/drop off spots on every block face in the areas of the city with the heaviest Uber/Lyft activity. Pass legislation saying that Uber/Lyft *have* to use those spots if available, and conduct heavy enforcement on vehicles stopping outside of those spaces or other legal stopping spaces. Uber/Lyft can modify their apps to snap origin/destinations pins to those pickup spots, much as they already do for airport pickups and drop offs.

  • CheerTheGallows

    Board of Supes/SFMTA/SFBC: Demand Uber/Lyft comply with the law (for once) and have them reconfigure the app to prohibit/prevent any pick-ups on any street with a bike lane. This is entirely possible with existing technology and the existing digital maps. Uber riders can walk around the corner or a block away to get picked up. This is an entirely reasonable demand and entirely doable for the the illegal taxi companies.

    Uber/Lyft’s response to this demand will tell you everything we need to know about how seriously they take our safety and their compliance with existing law.

    Personally, I strongly doubt they will do anything until forced to, but there is no reason not to demand this of them IMMEDIATELY. Make them answer for their negligence and make them feel the heat from the negative publicity.

  • Eric Johnson

    I thought the take away is that only 1% of tickets are for driving in or obstructing a bike line.

  • crazyvag

    Good time to point out that many of these violations wouldn’t be possible if we simply converted all bike lanes to be parking protected bike lanes. Let’s do a single study on best practices and start throwing paint down street by street. We don’t need to study the same issues for each street given the same configuration.

  • mx

    Loading zones! It’s not rocket science. Then ticket the hell out of people who don’t use them.

    If you have blocks long stretches with no place to safely and legally pull over, drivers are going to stop in the middle of the street and bike lanes. That’s inevitable, and no amount of hand-wringing is going to change that. The problem is obvious at this point; we should be adapting our streets to safely accommodate the people who use them, and that includes those using taxis, Uber, and Lyft.

  • Corvus Corax

    Every day in San Francisco, thousands of people use Uber in ways that
    complement–rather than compete with–public transit, bicycling and
    walking. – Alex Randolph, Uber public policy manager

    Horsefeathers! How stupid do they think we are?

  • Iliel Morales

    Uber/ Lyft are directly competing with bicyclist. Stopping in the middle of the road is dangerous..

  • John Tyler

    Uber drivers completely flaunt the law when it comes to obstructing traffic. Anyone can see it by trying to drive or bike down the Embarcadero near the Giant’s stadium. They consistently block the right lane in front of the stadium, even in times of extreme congestion making that lane unavailable to others. I have never seen any enforcement there, so of course they do it consistently. The Uber app could tell customers where to go for an appropriate pickup point, but it doesn’t. Perhaps much heavier fines and more enforcement would fix the problem. A little video would prevent the drivers from going before the judge and whining about how they’re so persecuted. They wouldn’t dare try this crap in Chicago, so it’s very much an enforcement problem.

  • citrate reiterator

    In related news Peskin was also shocked—shocked—to find that gambling is going on in here

  • John Murphy

    Careful.

    If the law says that Uber and Lyft cannot pick up on a street with a bike lane – I guarantee the next time a bike lane comes up for consideration a bunch of people will show up to complain that we can’t put in a bike lane because they use that street to get Uber and they don’t want to be unable to do so.

    The answer is jonobate’s – remove parking in order to create dropoff zones. If Uber is so popular that they are double parking, then clearly that should be a priority use for the curbside space compared to private parking.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    I normally stay the hell out of SF, but the other day I had to get from Caltrain to a BART station, and I got on the 30-Stockton (because it was going to be 48 minutes for the next T, apparently). The number of Uber drivers clogging up the bus lane on 3rd street was really something. It wasn’t just that they were in the bus lane, but they were turning right (into stopped traffic) from the bus lane, and the next lane, and the lane next to that! Four of the six lanes of 3rd had an Uber driver illegally turning right. It was really incredible.

  • John Murphy

    Obviously this is spin because there are many who just say “cool no MUNI anymore” but last week we stayed in Berkeley and went to a party. We took BART there, knowing that BART would not be running after the party, but we could use Lyft home. So we didn’t drive to the party based on need for a vehicle to return.

    There’s a lot of goodness in there.

  • John Murphy

    Rookie. Even before Uber, the pro move is to just walk down 4th. Well, the real pro move was to take the Jitney but I think he retired.

  • HayBro

    Bike Share is the pro move

  • Jeffrey Baker

    What you are both saying is that nobody carrying a small child should attempt to move around in San Francisco.

  • John Murphy

    I carried my small child all over San Francisco – and we lived at the tip top of Noe Valley. Twin Peaks was his favorite.

    I also took him around on bike a lot but I guess I cannot recommend you chucking your kid into the basket on a Ford GoBike.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    That just underscores how backwards and broken SF is. I never once considered carrying my kids “all over” Zurich when I lived there, because the trams come every 2-3 minutes, all day long. We also went up the Uetliberg a lot … on the Utlibahn that leaves every 20 minutes, apparently more often than the stupid K/T line.

    Also when I lived in Zurich the number of times my children accidentally stepped in a pile of feces or a used condom was zero.

    Walking in SoMA with children is pretty close to the least-desirable experience I can think of. And these days the sidewalk has been narrowed by Central Subway construction to about 18 inches.

  • ZA_SF

    Obvious to anyone paying attention, Uber/Lyft are serial violators of traffic law.

    I should add my experience just yesterday, when a car driving besides me while I was biking on Harrison Street then jerked sharply into my bike lane without any signal, as if responding to a digital navigator without the driver checking their mirrors first.

    Then there was the oblivious tunnel-vision Tesla driver on 24th Street this morning. They never turned to look, failing to yield to the right (where I was), and then proceeded to accelerate into my path while vaping in stone-faced distraction. That was followed by the cherry on top of a car running a red light on 4th street at Folsom, going at least 30mph, and narrowly missing two crossing pedestrians in the crosswalk with the light signal.

    Then we have the sports car which must have rushed up Elk Street to crash into a coule’s home on Bosworth at O’Shaughnessy late Monday night (http://kron4.com/2017/09/26/video-car-smashes-into-san-francisco-home-displacing-2-people/).

    Then this morning’s AC Transit bus debacle with 4 hospitalizations.

    Uber/Lyft may be bad, but everyone is getting quantifiably worse.

    Somebody tell SFPD to analyze the traffic cameras and a far more alarming picture of daily risk will become apparent.

  • junkyardnut

    Sooner or later , you will see some pipes sticking straight out of pavement and jammed thru buildings because they are already running out of room …………….

  • Stuart

    Loading zones! It’s not rocket science.

    Tell that to all the TNC drivers who can’t seem to understand how to use the ones we already have. I wouldn’t think pulling forward a few car lengths to the open curb space instead of stopping in a bike lane would be hard. Or actually pulling all the way to the curb when using one, instead of blocking the entire bike lane while leaving a bunch of empty space on their right.

    If you have blocks long stretches with no place to safely and legally pull over, drivers are going to stop in the middle of the street and bike lanes.

    But that’s also what they do when there are places to safely pull over, but doing so is even the tiniest bit less convenient for them.

    The problem is obvious at this point

    Yes, and it’s that these companies have set up structures that insulate them from consequences of illegal and dangerous driving, as well as incentive structures that encourage drivers to break any law that would slow them down or risk a lower passenger rating.

    If Uber and Lyft actually cared about safety, they would change their incentives so that drivers reported for illegal driving were treated much more harshly than drivers whose ratings dipped too far below 5 stars.

    But that’s not good for their bottom line, so instead they have systems that make reporting drivers as a bystander as hard as possible, then ignore the reports they do get, and drivers behave accordingly.

  • GVDB

    I was riding my bike the other day in downtown, and when I came across an Uber in the bike lane, I stopped right in front to the Uber car while on my bike. I stayed there and forced them to go around me.

    Incredibly satisfying.

  • Harris

    Petty. Just go around.

  • Harris

    And what about the residents who can no longer park near their homes at night because we took out the parking spaces to create loading zones?

  • GVDB

    What’s the fun in that?

    You say petty, I say educational.

  • Harris

    And what about the people who live there and rely on the parking spaces that you want to remove?

    Everyone has a stake in real estate, so nobody gets 100% of what they want

  • Harris

    Next time the driver may just decide to “educate” you by knocking you off your bike instead.

    Don’t start something from a position of weakness

  • Harris

    I’ve spent a lot of time in Zurich and used hypo needles in the gutter were routine there.

  • jonobate

    If parking is metered or time limited – which it almost certainly is in areas with the highest Uber/Lyft activity – it means the purpose of the parking spaces are for visitors to the neighborhood, not long-term parking for residents. Drop-off areas would get visitors into the neighborhood more efficiently than providing that space for parking, so this should be supported by businesses.

    If parking is not metered or time limited and there is a lot of visitor activity to the neighborhood, it probably should be metered or time limited.

  • Stuart

    FYI: “Harris” is one of RichLL’s accounts. Something to keep in mind before trying to have a rational conversation about street space allocation.

  • Harris

    On-street parking is often metered during the day but not at night, reflecting the fact that there are residents who do not need parking during the busy daytimes but do need them at night, because they drive to work.

    The problem here is that Uber usage doesn’t correspond so neatly with the business day. A 9 to 5 loading zone won’t help in the evenings while a 9 to 11 loading zone would greatly impact residents.

    The simplest solutions is to ask the residents what they want rather than guessing

  • Harris

    Which of my arguments were not “rational”?

    And why appear so desperate to personally attack a fellow contributor given that it makes you look like you fear their arguments?

  • Harris

    Actually if Uber etc become more successful then we will need less parking as it is effectively a form of car sharing. Your pathological hatred of a form of sharing which has the potential to reduce congestion is not logical.

  • Harris

    I drive less because of Uber. Why is that not a good thing?

  • Harris

    Probably because those offenses represent about 1% of the total harm and risk caused.

  • John French

    It is a good thing. But you probably also walk, bike, and ride transit less. I don’t know you, so maybe not, but that’s definitely the case for all of the people I know who use Uber/Lyft: Sure, they use it for shopping trips or trips out of town occasionally where they otherwise might drive, but more often than not they choose it out of (self-admitted) laziness instead of walking or biking, or because it’s faster than a bus.

    I’ve seen some data to support this (specifically for commute trips, that uber/lyft are largely replacing bike/walk/transit and not cars), but I can’t find it online… will update if I do.

  • Corvus Corax

    Please note, everyone; this is the troll formerly known as RichLL, trying to bait me into one of his useless and annoying conversations. I advise you all not to engage him. He is also posting as Whateveryousay, Red Monk, LinuxGuy, Kevin Withers, and likely other sockpuppet IDs.. He has many accounts and frequently (once many people learn his new ID) switches the name of his accounts.

    Please, do not engage him, but if you want to know some of his tricks, look at the very funny and insightful comments from a RichLL parody profile. See here:
    https://disqus.com/by/richllcommentarytrack/

  • Harris

    Usually when a new form of transport arrives on the scene, it takes share from other modalities, certainly. But it also creates new demand – I may decide to take a trip that I otherwise would not have done, just because I now can.

    You might think that’s a bad thing, because it adds to congestion. But it is also a good thing, because it creates greater economic activity.

    In my case, I mostly take Uber in place of cabs, and a big part of that is because the current cab system in SF is rigged. It is no coincidence that the biggest complainers about Uber are yellow cab drivers. It’s a threat to them, given their incompetence.

    And before cyclists were complaining about Uber, who were they complaining about? Yellow cabs.

  • Harris

    My wisdom must really scare you if you resort to stalking me and inventing other identities. Why does the truth scare you so much?

    And nobody thought that your parody was funny, which is why you keep trying to claim that it was. It’s borderline stalking and a less tolerant soul would have taken out a TRO against you by now.

    Just admit it that I drive you nuts because my logic in unimpeachable and you don’t like what that implies.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    I intentionally didn’t mention needles 🙂 It’s a lot better since 2008. The open heroin market has nearly disappeared.

  • Corvus Corax

    See below how he keeps trying to bait me. But at least he is not making his usual denials, but admits to being the Great Troll.

    Please note that he is accusing me of stalking him, but in fact, was the one who just tried to bait me.

    The threat of the TRO is new (to me, not to the others who call him out) and is a very ridiculous thing to say.

  • Harris

    I never threatened you with a TRO. I merely stated that some others might respond to your stalking in that way.

    Personally, I enjoy your over-reactions because it tells readers that you fear my content, my truth and my arguments. Otherwise you’d just ignore me.

  • jonobate

    Thanks for the heads up.

  • Corvus Corax

    He has made slightly more than a third of the comments in this thread; it is his usual number.

  • jonobate

    Yep. Additionally, allowing Uber/Lyft to block a travel lane on a street without a bike lane is also dangerous to cyclists and slows down transit. We need a solution to this issue that works on all busy streets.

  • jonobate

    It’s certainly the case that some drivers don’t give a shit about pulling over to the curb even if space is available, but there’s also a real issue with lack of available curb space in this city. The vast majority of curb space is given over to parking, and there is very low parking availability due to inadequate use of metering or time limits in busy areas. Bus zones are obviously off limits, so that leaves very few places for drivers to legally stop.

    So the answer is to do both – convert some parking to loading zones, *and* heavily ramp up enforcement on anyone not using them.

  • Stuart

    I’m pretty sure we’ve had this conversation before, and fundamentally disagree about the plausibility of the “heavily ramp up enforcement” part actually happening. And without that half, I just don’t see it being a particularly effective solution.

    If I thought that TNC drivers would actually use the zones effectively (either because of real enforcement, or cooperation from the companies), I’d be all for a substantial increase.

  • jonobate

    So your solution is… give up?

    The two parts of the solution go hand in hand. Double parking is tolerated, both by SFPD and by the general public, because there is no practical alternative. This was the case even before Uber and Lyft showed up, and Streetsblog were running articles about it back then, too.

    Create a practical alternative to double parking and there will be less reason for anyone to do it, and less excuse for SFPD not to ticket it. If the perception of the general public changes so that double parking is seen as a shitty thing to do, just like blocking the box at intersections, it will become self-enforcing. No driver wants to be the guy who everyone else is honking at because they are holding up traffic.

  • Anony

    Confirmed. Jitney RIP.

  • Harris

    “Uber/Lyft may be bad, but everyone is getting quantifiably worse.”

    This is true, so I think people are picking on Uber for other, probably ideological reasons.

    As I drive around the city, there are obstructions everywhere. Some are Ubers, some are cabs, some are delivery trucks, some are buses stopped, some are people wandering into the road gazing into their phones, some are cyclists “taking the lane”.

    Everyone is behaving badly, it’s getting worse, and playing “you lot are worse than my lot” games isn’t helping either.

  • Harris

    My comments were on the topic. Yours are personal attacks on other contributors. Big difference.

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