New Videos School Uber Drivers on How to Drive Safely Around Bicyclists

Uber and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition have produced a series of videos instructing drivers how to be safe around people on bikes.  (Courtesy of Uber )

Uber has a message for drivers who double-park in the bike lane to pick up and drop off passengers in San Francisco: Don't do it.

"Bike lanes are for the exclusive use of people biking," says one of four new bike safety training videos emailed to Uber drivers and riders Thursday. "It is illegal and dangerous to drive or park in a bike lane."

Safe streets advocates say they've gotten lots of complaints about Uber drivers parking in bike lanes on popular bicycle routes, even though it can land them a $123 ticket.

It has become so much of a problem on Valencia Street that a group of guerrilla bike activists recently coned off a portion of the bike lane, with a sign that directed bikes into the bike lane and Uber vehicles into the driving lane.

The new videos, produced in consultation with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, come more than a year after the company riled safe streets advocates by opposing and leading a petition against safety improvements on Market Street. One advocate had even encouraged people to delete the Uber app from their phones.

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In a blog post, the company says it's "committed to making sure the streets of our hometown are as safe as possible for people in cars, on foot and on bicycles alike." That includes supporting Vision Zero, the city's program to end all traffic deaths by 2024.

Uber officials expect the videos will reach "hundreds of thousands of Uber users."

"Consulting on these videos and tips ensures that the most accurate and up-to-date safety information is distributed to an unprecedented number of people driving and riding on San Francisco streets," the bike coalition said in its own blog post. "This is groundbreaking for our city as well as the broader Bay Area, and will be a model for safe streets advocates and cities across the country."

Among the safety tips, the videos encourage drivers to slow down, give bike riders 3 feet of space, as required by California law, and to check the road before exiting the vehicles, so that they don't swing their doors into a passing cyclist, or what's known as dooring.

An Uber spokeswoman did not directly respond to a request to provide numbers detailing how many collisions have been reported in San Francisco between Uber drivers and people who bike. That information is not available to the general public, although the company is required to report collisions to the California Public Utilities Commission. CPUC officials were not able to provide collision data for San Francisco.

The spokeswoman would also not say whether the videos were required watching for drivers or if similar videos were being planned around pedestrian safety. CPUC regulations don't require any training for ride-service drivers on bicycle safety, far short of what's required for taxi drivers in San Francisco.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency requires taxi drivers, Muni operators and truck drivers to take a one-hour safety course taught by an instructor from the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. Taxi drivers are also required to attend taxi training school.

The bike coalition trains about 800 professional drivers a year on how to drive safely around people walking and biking, said coalition spokesman Chris Cassidy.

Uber officials say they are working on and have implemented a number of technology improvements to track driver behavior on the Uber app. They include daily reports to drivers "on how their driving patterns compare to other drivers in their city -- with suggestions on how to provide a smoother safer ride."

The company also sends reminders to drivers to take breaks and has a speed display in the app.

Uber officials won't say how many drivers work in San Francisco, but there are thousands of ride service drivers, according to a spokeswoman for the city treasurer's office. In April, the city sent 37,000 notices to drivers with the news that they are required to get business licenses because they are independent contractors.

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So far, about 18,000 drivers have registered with the city, while around 12,000 say "they are no longer driving in SF, already registered, or consider themselves employees (not independent contractors)," according to the spokeswoman.

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