Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on November 14th, 2016 at 2:25 pm
People who drive for ride-sharing company Uber frequently ignore a key traffic law that impacts bicycle access on major streets. And when called out for doing so the drivers have a tendency to lash out at — and in some cases physically assault and/or harrass — other road users.
We now know of three such incidents in the past ten weeks.
This morning we received an email from a reader who came upon an Uber driver who was parked on the new raised bike lane on NE Couch as it enters the Burnside Bridge. When the bicycle rider confronted the person inside the car and attempted to photograph the vehicle, he claims he was verbally threatened. “He got out of his vehicle, got face-to-face with me, and threatened to asssault me.” Not wanting the situation to escalate, the man on the bicycle says he stood down and let the driver vent. That tactic didn’t prevent the driver from forcibly grabbing his bike and throwing it aside.
On October 19th another Portlander tried to document illegal and dangerous parking by someone who drives for Uber (and Lyft). He said the driver got mad, stepped out of the car, and grabbed his phone. He captured it on Twitter…
— dudeluna (@dudeluna) October 19, 2016
And on August 27th, we reported about another case where a person who appeared to be driving for Uber assaulted a bicycle rider. In that case the woman was later arrested thanks in part because the bicycle rider had documented proof of the altercation and the driver bragged about the incident online.
These are just the incidents we’ve heard about.
I have personally seen several people with Uber and/or Lyft stickers in their cars, staring at their phones while parked in bicycling-only lanes. It seems to be yet another dangerous nuisance people on bikes have to deal with on a daily basis.
So far Uber has been responsive when contacted about the problem. Jon Isaacs, their public affairs manager for Oregon, told us the woman in the August 27th incident was immediately “suspended from accessing the Uber platform.” That phrase (which the company calls “Deactivation”) is strategic because Uber says people who drive for them are only “independent driver-partners” and not full-fledged employees who can be “fired” or “suspended”. Isaacs also told us that, “rider and pedestrian safety continue to be our top priority” and that, “We have a zero tolerance policy for any reckless or dangerous actions by drivers or riders.”
Uber’s current policy states that any driver who receives “several or serious complaints of poor, unsafe or distracted driving while using the Uber app” will face deactivation. Once they can no longer access the app, people can re-enlist as an Uber driver by showing the company they’ve “taken steps to improve” such as taking a “quality improvement course.”
It’s hard enough for traditional transportation agencies to educate and police the behaviors of their drivers. So can we really expect much improvement from a company that considers their drivers nothing more than “independent partners”? These behaviors are happening with too much frequency for a company to rely only on legal fine print to keep their drivers in check.
We’ve asked Isaacs to comment on this recent incident (they’ve responded to the victim and have started an investigation) and will update this post if/when we hear back.
For now, since this trend is likely to continue, here’s what to do if you would like to file a complaint with an Uber or Lyft driver: Email Isaacs at email@example.com and fill out the complaint form on the Portland Bureau of Transportation website. If you have been assaulted, file a report with the police online or call the PPB non-emergency line at (503) 823-3333.
— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – firstname.lastname@example.org