Did the “Uber Strike” Change Your Commute?

Share your thoughts on how Uber and Lyft have changed out streets

Uber and Lyft protesters on 11th street (and still blocking the bike lane). All pics Streetsblog/Rudick
Uber and Lyft protesters on 11th street (and still blocking the bike lane). All pics Streetsblog/Rudick

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IPOs, traffic, blocked bike lanes, and exploited gig workers–there’s a lot to unpack when it comes to today’s Uber and Lyft strike. But as cycling advocates prepare for tomorrow’s Bike to Work Day, it was an opportunity to suggest one obvious alternative to hailing a TNC:

As reported in the mainstream press, San Francisco Uber and Lyft drivers are promising to turn off their apps from noon to midnight today (the strike is global, and different cities have different strike schedules; London’s started at 7 a.m., for example). Some 100 protesters were out marching and demonstrating at Uber’s headquarters on Market Street this afternoon, chanting “Hey hey, ho ho, unfair pay has got to go!” (CityLab did a great breakdown in March about the pay issues).

Some 100 demonstrators in front of Uber's headquarters in San Francisco this afternoon, around 2
Some 100 demonstrators in front of Uber’s headquarters in San Francisco this afternoon, around 2 p.m.

The New York Times is reporting that the strike got off to a “muted start” in Australia and the U.K., and as of the time this posted it’s too soon to say how things are going in the Bay Area (please comment below if you’ve noticed any difference on our streets). Streetsblog saw several Uber drop-offs and pick-ups after noon today, including one right in front of the Uber building, so it seems at least some drivers are crossing the virtual picket lines.

Meanwhile, for a while this afternoon, the demonstrators were blocking Market Street between 10th and 11th. Fortunately, the San Francisco Police Department was there to clear the obstruction… for transit and, of course, motorists–although not so much for bikes, as this cop who parked his cruiser on the bike lane made clear.

And this is how SFPD clears Market Street of protesters. Sigh. In fairness, the SFPD cruiser was moved shortly after this photo was taken
And this is how SFPD clears Market Street of protesters (in fairness, the parked cruiser was eventually moved).

A study done last year by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority showed that Uber and Lyft accounted for roughly half of the increase in congestion in San Francisco between 2010 and 2016, as measured in vehicle hours of delay, vehicle miles traveled, and average speeds (Streetsblog has a request in to SFMTA to see if the strike is having any impact on transit and will update this post). Uber and Lyft are also responsible for a highly disproportionate number of road violations, including (spoiler alert!) blocking bike lanes.

Nationally, studies show Uber and Lyft are causing other problems on city streets as well.

Whether you normally commute by Muni, BART, bike, scooter, by foot, or roller skates, let us know if your commute changed this evening due to the Uber/Lyft strike. And let us know your thoughts on wage disparities, the gig economy, and the upcoming IPO.

Comment below.

  • KOinSF

    UBER is a horrible company and I only wish this would make a dent in their goals.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    I checked the Uber app a couple times today and I see normal delays and prices. Uber will take me to the nearest BART station in a fraction of the time (14 minutes vs. 71 minutes) and only 150% the price of a bus ride. I don’t know if these organizers achieved critical mass of participating drivers to make a dent.

  • crazyvag

    How do you pay $3.75 for Uber? Do you skip the tip?

  • Jeffrey Baker

    I don’t fully understand the economics of it, that’s just the price it generally offers for the “pool” service even though it’s very rare that anyone else is in the car. My understanding is that they basically set piles of investor money on fire to subsidize this. The yellow cab trip over the same distance costs about $15 including tip.

  • redwoodmafia

    Traffic was noticeably lighter and more pleasant. More people walking and on the bus, waiting for MUNI and BART etc. traffic at the bay bridge was much lighter too.

    Looking at wait times and surge rates ignores a huge point which is supply and demand. Yesterday felt less like an all out strike (there were still drivers around) and more like a boycott (no one in my office even wanted to consider taking an Uber or Lyft). So of course cars were available without surge – no one (ok maybe just a few people were) was riding them!

  • ZA_SF

    My bike’s flat tire affected my commute, but a trustworthy MUNI bus was there to the rescue. $2.50 and 25 minutes later, I was one block from my place of employment.

  • Sean

    I actually rented a car to pick up my GF from the airport. She was gone for four weeks with a lot of bags and doesn’t live near BART. On the drive to SFO, I only saw about 4 Ubers in the whole area between there and Golden Gate Park. The cell phone waiting lot was mostly deserted. My 21 Muni trip from downtown was faster than usual.

    I really wish that those fake cars on the map in the app weren’t allowed, that is false advertising.