Uber and Lyft may be a convenient ways to get around, but for cyclists, the ridesharing services can mean danger. On social media, numerous cyclists have relayed tales of close encounters with ridesharing vehicles, including inattentive drivers who nearly run into them — or do run into them — along with drivers who stop to pick up fares in bike lanes.
If you ride your bike in Miami for transportation or fitness, it’s important to understand the risks of interacting with Uber and Lyft cars, steps you can take to protect yourself, and what to do if you’re injured by an rideshare driver.
Why Are Cyclists at Risk?
Cyclists always are more exposed to dangers on the roads than are people riding in cars. Without that protective metal shell around them, cyclists hit by a car are easily thrown from their bikes and can suffer serious and even fatal injuries, including head trauma.
Based on their own experiences, many cyclists feel that cars being used by Uber and other ridesharing services pose additional dangers for a number of reasons:
- Drivers get minimal to no training.
- Drivers use smartphone apps while they drive to keep track of fare details, and for navigation.
- Frequently, drivers choose poor spots — particularly bike lanes — to pick up and drop off passengers.
- Because passengers pay automatically through the app, there’s no delay in getting out of the vehicle once it stops. Passengers sometimes recklessly fling doors open without regard to an approaching cyclist.
- Florida already leads the nation in fatalities per 1 million residents and fatalities per 10k bike commuters
Some cyclists have had so many bad experiences with Uber vehicles that they go on high alert when they see the Uber sign in the back window. In some cases, cyclists report that they’ve had as many as one close call with an Uber vehicle per ride.
How Does Uber Qualify its Drivers?
Part of the problem, cyclists say, appears to be insufficient training. In recruiting drivers, Uber’s marketing gives the impression that driving is simply like picking up friends and dropping them off at home, but the reality is significantly different, cyclists assert.
Even though the job is only part-time, driving for Uber essentially amounts to chauffeuring — without a chauffeur’s license. Indeed, serving as a typical Uber driver entails no training and minimal requirements. Drivers must:
- Be at least 21 years old.
- Have a legally registered, four-door car of a certain model year — typically 2006 or newer — which differs around the country.
- Pass a background check.
- Provide a Social Security number.
- Have in-state auto insurance in their own names.
- Be licensed to drive in the state and licensed in the United States for at least a year.
And despite what the company has said in its marketing for the UberX service, most drivers don’t make anywhere near the touted median annual income of more than $90,000. Many drivers have reported making between $5 and $20 an hour — or an annual income between $10,000 and $41,000 for a 40-hour workweek. That level of pay is not likely to attract individuals with more-lucrative work options.
How Can Cyclists Protect Themselves?
Some cyclists note that being patient and vocal with Uber drivers can help, especially if they’re stopped in a bike lane or another illegal location. In many cases, drivers simply aren’t aware — and will move if they’re notified. Cyclists also can contact Uber if they notice a driver making dangerous maneuvers or stopping in restricted areas. Contacting the police is another option.
In addition, it’s important to understand that Uber drivers, in most cases, have not undergone professional training — and their total driving experience may be as short as one year. Stay alert, wear a helmet and use other safety gear, and do all you can to be visible to drivers. The safest cyclists expect reckless moves from motorists, and they often see them from Uber drivers.
Some cyclists have said that many Uber drivers seem more concerned with their star ratings than with keeping passengers and others on the roads safe. In some cases, cyclists who see an Uber driver performing poorly ask their passengers to give them a bad rating. And they may even ask a driver to give a passenger a bad rating for opening a door suddenly without looking.
What to Do if a Rideshare Car Hits You
If you’re involved in an accident with an Uber or Lyft driver, it’s important to understand how the company’s liability insurance works. Drivers typically have their own personal auto insurance policies, but in many cases the policies will not cover accidents that occur when the driver is being paid to drive.
Uber provides drivers with additional liability insurance that may cover your injuries and any related expenses. However, the policies typically only cover drivers when they are transporting customers; in the past, a coverage gap has existed that left drivers — along with other motorists, cyclists or pedestrians they might injure — without coverage if an accident occurred between fares. Recently, insurance products have come to market that close the gap, but some drivers still may not have such policies.
Because of the insurance coverage gap and drivers’ alleged status as independent contractors rather than employees, getting compensation from Uber takes a lawyer that knows the ropes. To ensure that your rights are fully protected after an accident involving an Uber driver, work with attorneys skilled in Uber litigation and personal injury cases. For a free consultation, please contact Kaire & Heffernan, LLC.
Photo Credit: Sans Parapluie via cc