Uber Drivers “May Choose” Whether or Not to Endanger Cyclists

Just another Uber blocking the bike lane on Valencia. But according to a company message, now they can "choose" not to do this. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
Just another Uber blocking the bike lane on Valencia. But according to a company message, now they can "choose" not to do this. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

Note: GJEL Accident Attorneys regularly sponsors coverage on Streetsblog San Francisco and Streetsblog California. Unless noted in the story, GJEL Accident Attorneys is not consulted for the content or editorial direction of the sponsored content.

Frustrated by Uber drivers blocking bike lanes? The company has informed its drivers that they “…may choose to avoid pickups or dropoffs in bike lanes.”

This was communicated via an email sent out Friday to Uber drivers (it was forwarded to Streetsblog by a tipster):

The graphic from an email sent Friday to Uber drivers (forwarded to Streetsblog by a tipster)

Got that? Uber wants its drivers to know they have the option of not endangering cyclists. Or they can continue to break the law. Apparently to Uber, it’s their choice.

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition’s Brian Wiedenmeier reacted this way in an email to Streetsblog:

The SF Bicycle Coalition has been pushing Uber and Lyft for years to take some responsibility for the safety of people who bike. With tens of thousands of additional vehicles on San Francisco’s streets everyday, it’s encouraging to see some steps like this email being taken. The contradiction in wording here (“it is against the law” vs. “you may choose to”) is consistent with both companies’ inability to require their drivers to do much of anything because of their employment status. The more they direct drivers to do or not do certain things, the stronger the driver’s case is that they are employees, not contractors. It’s certainly been a frustrating barrier when it comes to driver education.

Streetsblog reached out to Uber public affairs to ask why they are telling drivers that they “may choose” to avoid pickups and drop-offs in bike lanes, rather than simply telling them they will be deactivated if they break the law and endanger people?

“We believe awareness is critical and it starts with education to encourage safe practices by both riders and drivers to help ensure the safety of everyone on the roads. We know there is more work to do and we are continuing to work with bicycle coalitions and road safety advocates on ways we can help contribute to safer streets,” replied a spokesperson for Uber.

Bike East Bay’s Robert Prinz, meanwhile, writes that Uber’s failings are a symptom of a larger problem with how the state licenses drivers. “Ride-hail driver training hasn’t been our focus in part because there is so much turnover, and nothing more than the state driver training standard required. As such, for more consistency there has to be increased…training requirements on the state level to apply to ride-hail operators or preferably to all drivers.”

“Although this is a step in the right direction, and it appears that Uber is making efforts to educate their drivers about the rules of the road, they are still riding a fine line by not mandating that their drivers avoid (un)loading in the bike lane altogether,” wrote Catherine Orland, former District 9 representative to the SFMTA’s Bicycle Advisory Committee and a longtime bike advocate who was instrumental in documenting bike-lane violations on Valencia Street. “If Uber continues to abdicate their responsibility to properly train their contractor drivers, how does this bring our city any closer to accomplishing Vision Zero?”

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