IT’S NOT YOUR IMAGINATION: Uber and Lyft Drivers Almost Always Park in Bike Lanes

A common sight for cyclists. Photo: Vivian Lipson
A common sight for cyclists. Photo: Vivian Lipson

Uber and Lyft drivers are just horrible when it comes to blocking bike lanes.

I found that out last week when I took 20 rides with the app-based cab companies — and the companies blocked bike lanes on 82 percent of my trips. Even when the drivers had room to pull over and not block the bike lane, the vast majority chose to block the bike lane, which is a violation. Only two of 20 drivers followed the rules on both legs of the trip.

Sure, it’s not a scientific survey — but it’s telling nonetheless. One would think that companies that own bike share systems (Uber owns Jump and Lyft owns Citi Bike) would train employees working for one arm of the business to stop endangering customers using another part of the business.

That’s one reason we wanted to do the test. Here are others:

  • The city recently undertook a three-week crackdown on bike lane blockers and reckless drivers — so we wanted to see whether it had any impact (you decide: not a single one of our 18 scofflaw drivers got a ticket for his actions).
  • Back in February, a group of Boston cyclists demanded that the two companies get their drivers to stop obstructing bike lanes, a story that went national. So obviously the situation has been improved, right? (See above: Nope!)
  • Eighty percent of complaints filed on the Reported app — a popular tool for telling cops about rogue cabbies —are for blocked bike lanes. So clearly this is a problem.
  • And, finally, we’re just sick of all the bike lanes being illegally blocked by cabbies. A blocked bike lane directly led to Madison Lyden’s death on Central Park West last year, when she was forced out of a painted lane. And 18 cyclists have been killed so far this year, some after maneuvering around a blocked bike route. It’s bad enough when anyone blocks a bike lane, but, as I might have mentioned before, it’s worse when the cabbies work for companies that are also seeking to expand bike share around the country.

For our test, I took 10 rides between Park Slope’s Seventh Avenue and Fort Greene’s Vanderbilt Avenue, and the other 10 between the Lower East Side’s FDR Drive and the East Village’s Avenue A — chosen by Streetsblog because they all have painted (not protected!) bike lanes. In all but one of the 40 trips*, the driver either blocked the bike lane or blocked the street when picking me up or dropping me off — even though in many instances there was space to avoid the dangerous maneuvers.

Two drivers did everything by the book — picking me up and dropping me off in the middle of the street. Yes, that’s the right way to do it, according to Taxi and Limousine Commission. Spokeswoman Rebecca Harshbarger told Streetsblog that if there is no space for a cabbie to get to the curb, “drivers should stop in the travel lane to drop off the passenger expeditiously.

That’s great in theory, but a cabbie who stops in the middle of the street creates a host of other dangers, such as drivers swerving into oncoming traffic, or into the bike lane, to get around the stopped taxi. Clearly, the solution is for the cab driver to find drop-off space at the curb, such as a hydrant.

Here are the detailed results from our 20 rides with Uber and Lyft:

  • 40 pickups and drop-offs
  • 32 bike lanes blocked out of 39 checkable pickups and drop-offs* (82 percent)
  • 1 drop-off — just one — in which a driver pulled over to the curb, neither blocking the bike lane or the roadway (2.5 percent).
  • 2 drivers who got it right — TLC “right” — out of 20 total drivers (10 percent)

(* On one trip, the driver dropped me off on the wrong street — one without a painted bike lane — so we can’t know if he would have gotten it right.)

Here’s my detailed report:

Ride 1: Park Slope to Fort Greene on Uber: Mikhail was a good driver and played Ariana Grande in the car, though unfortunately pulled into the bike lane to pick me up. On drop-off, he did find an open spot and used it to drop me off at the curb — the only driver to do so in all 20 round-trips.

Ride 2: Fort Greene to Park Slope on Uber: Tweh also drove well, but on pickup he pulled into the bike lane even though there was an open spot that would have allowed him to pick me up yet also leave the bike lane clear. On drop off, he also left me in the bike lane. (By the way, we ran his plate through howsmydrivingny.nyc and found that he’s run at least one red light and got two parking tickets.)

Ride 3: Park Slope to Fort Greene on Uber: Ikrom was a good driver, but he also pulled into the bike lane to pick me up and drop me off.

Ride 4: Fort Greene to Park Slope on Uber: Despite swerving to avoid a reckless school bus at one point, Mohammad drove OK. He also pulled into the bike lane during pickup and drop off. (We ran his plate, too: He has received one speeding ticket, one ticket for blocking an intersection and two other parking tickets.)

Ride 5: Park Slope to Fort Greene on Uber: Temo was a pretty good driver, but he pulled into the bike lane to pick me up despite there being a spot a few cars away from us. He also pulled into the bike lane for drop off.

Ride 6: Fort Greene to Park Slope on Lyft: As a driver, Umid was slightly reckless at some intersections. On pickup, he pulled half way into the bike lane and remained halfway in the road, and on drop-off, he let me out on the wrong street, which didn’t have a bike lane, so, technically, he kept the bike lane clear that time. It is unclear what he would have done if he had dropped me off on the correct street, so we are tossing that one result. (Also, we ran his plate: He has received four speeding tickets,  and has been ticketed for three non-moving violations.)

Ride 7: Park Slope to Fort Greene on Lyft: Ulugbek was a good driver, but he pulled into the bike lane when picking me up because there were no available spots. He also pulled into the bike lane when dropping me off despite there being a few open spots nearby.

Ride 8: Fort Greene to Park Slope on Lyft: Tashi drove well, but he pulled into the bike lane when picking me up despite an open spot on the block. When dropping me off, he did not pull in at all, and instead left me out in the middle of the street, which is also unsafe.

Ride 9: Park Slope to Fort Greene on Lyft: Salah’s driving was good, but he picked me up and dropped me off in the street instead of pulling in, despite there available open spaces for him to park.

Ride 10: Fort Greene to Park Slope on Lyft: Jim Hui was a very good driver, but, alas, he pulled into the bike lane for pickup even though there was a big open spot right in front of him. For drop-off he let me out in the street instead of pulling in.

Ride 11: Lower East Side to the East Village on Uber: David drove well, but on pickup he pulled into the bike lane when there were no available spots for him, and he dropped me off by blocking the bike lane.

Ride 12: East Village to the Lower East Side on Uber: Pila was a very good driver and an avid “Lion King” fan, but he blocked the bike lane on pickup and blocked the bike lane when dropping me off, despite open spots that he could have pulled into.

This Uber driver — yes, in the bike lane — has racked up 30 tickets in three years, including multiple moving violations. Photo: Vivian Lipson
This Uber driver — yes, in the bike lane — has racked up 30 tickets in three years, including multiple moving violations. Photo: Vivian Lipson

Ride 13: Lower East Side to the East Village on Uber: Dzhameshed (photo right) was a pretty good driver, but he picked me up and dropped me off in the bike lane despite multiple open spots available. No surprise there — we ran his license plate and discovered 30 violations since 2016, including six red light tickets and seven speeding tickets. He also has two tickets for blocking a fire hydrant. He shouldn’t be on the road.

Ride 14: East Village to the Lower East Side on Uber: Alberto drove well, but picked me up and dropped me off in the bike when there were no nearby open spots available for him to pull into. He also has a speeding ticket on his record.

Ride 15: Lower East Side to the East Village on Uber: Enrique was an OK driver, but he picked me up and left me out in the bike lane when there were no open spots nearby. He also has two speeding tickets in two years.

Ride 16: East Village to the Lower East Side on Lyft: Pedro was a pretty good driver, and he followed the letter of the law by dropping me off and letting me out in the road as opposed to blocking the bike lane. That said, he has also racked up 10 tickets in less than one year, including three for running red lights and two for speeding.

Ride 17: Lower East Side to the East Village on Lyft: Jaspinder drove well, but he picked me up and dropped me off in the bike lane where there were no convenient spots for him to pull into.

Ride 18: East Village to the Lower East Side on Lyft: Shajadul was a good driver, but he picked me up and let me out in the bike lane.

Ride 19: Lower East Side to the East Village on Lyft: Emmanuel drove pretty well, but he picked me up in the bike lane despite an open spot available for him, and he dropped me off in the road.

Ride 20: East Village to the Lower East Side on Lyft: Desiree, the first female driver I got, drove well despite leaving me in the bike lane during pickup and drop-off even though there were open spots she could have pulled into.

Uber did not respond to a request for comment. In a statement, Lyft spokeswoman Madeline Kaye partially blamed her drivers’ failures on the city.

“We believe our riders deserve well-designed streets that separate bikes and pedestrians from cars and keep everyone safe,” Kaye said, adding that “Lyft has been focused on solutions to ensure the safety of everyone who shares the street..”

Such efforts, she said, include telling drivers and passengers about the “Dutch Reach” so they they don’t open doors into cyclists, and, at least in San Francisco, using geo-fencing technology to prevent pickups and drop-offs from happening on certain streets.

“There is always more to be done,” Kaye admitted.

— With Gersh Kuntzman 

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