Uber Makes the Case for NYC Cyclists to Download Lyft

It’s hard to make livable streets advocates take the same side of an issue as the taxi medallion industry, but Uber’s general manager in New York, Josh Mohrer, is giving it his best shot.

In a Q&A with Kevin Roose about Uber’s clash with City Hall, Mohrer completely flubbed his chance to make a pitch for congestion pricing or Donald Shoup-inspired curbside parking reform as the alternative to a cap on new for-hire vehicles.

If it’s not limiting new Ubers on the road, what should New York be doing about congestion?

Well, first of all, the mayor’s never cared about congestion before. It’s kind of a new thing for him. But if I were mayor and congestion was my top priority, I would think about: why are 2.7 million people coming into the city every day in their own car? What is behind that? And what are the real reasons for congestion? We’re all ordering on Amazon, and UPS and FedEx trucks are double-parked during the day? I love Amazon, I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t have it. But maybe it’s impacting congestion. Or bike lanes, which I love! But that’s one less lane of traffic.

Bike lane scapegoating from a company whose professed intent is to upend private car ownership. Another ingenious PR moment for Uber, whose NYC customer base must include many thousands of people who also make trips by bike.

Blaming a safety improvement like bike lanes for congestion is emblematic of the farcical public debate about Uber in New York right now. Rethinking the for-hire vehicle industry should be an opportunity to put big ideas on the table. But instead of talking about what we want from our streets and transportation system, we’re having a big shouting match about what’s responsible for traffic and congestion.

City Hall, Uber, and even Streetsblog have played into this framing of the problem. I think we can do better, and tomorrow I’ll post some thoughts about how to reframe the discussion.

In the meantime, I’m downloading Lyft.

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