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SFPD: Uber, Lyft account for two-thirds of congestion-related traffic violations downtown

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An Uber driver sits in traffic on Mission Street in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood on June 13, 2017. (Sarahbeth Maney/Special to S.F. Examiner)
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Nearly two thirds of congestion-related traffic violations downtown were from Uber and Lyft vehicles, according to the San Francisco Police Department.

Speaking to the San Francisco Examiner, Supervisor Aaron Peskin said the number was dramatic enough to spur a potential lawsuit against Uber and Lyft.

“I’m going to talk to City Attorney [Dennis] Herrera about this right now,” he said, and added he’d like to ask the State Attorney General’s Office to join a potential action.

In a Board of Supervisors Land Use and Transportation committee hearing Monday, Peskin said, “This number is basically unbelievable,” to SFPD Cmdr. Robert O’Sullivan, who presented the data.

“What you’re telling me is [ride-hail] drivers violate the law more flagrantly than non-[ride-hail] drivers,” Peskin added. O’Sullivan, who heads SFPD’s traffic company, answered that for the “snapshot of time” in which the data was taken, “Yes.”

Data shows ridehail citations outnumber other autos. TNC stands for “transportation network company,” the regulatory name for ridehails like Uber and Lyft. (Data courtesy San Francisco Police Department)

The data presented by O’Sullivan was compiled by SFPD between April 1 and June 30 and shows Uber and Lyft vehicles comprising the lion’s share of key traffic violations related to congestion.

Of drivers found illegally driving in transit-only lanes, 1,144 out of 1,715 were ride-hail drivers. Additionally, 183 out of 239 tickets issued for drivers obstructing a lane of traffic, or a bike lane, were issued to Uber and Lyft drivers. Ride-hail drivers also were cited more than other drivers for making U-Turns in a business district, 42 times out of a total 57.

Uber and Lyft drivers were also cited for driving in bike lanes and obstructing bike lanes, and committed “other transit violations” far more often than other drivers.

All told, out of 2,656 traffic violations total, 1,723 citations were of a ride-hail vehicles, according to the SFPD.

Lyft wrote in a statement, “We are supportive of holistic efforts to address congestion and have been in conversations with city officials for months to engage collaboratively on a pilot program to do just that,” referring to a collaboration first reported by the Examiner between Lyft and Mayor Ed Lee.

O’Sullivan told the Examiner he learned “anecdotally” that a “significant number of the violators” were ride-hail drivers. To discover if this was true, he directed an SFPD sergeant to have his officers track whether the violators issued a citation were ride-hail operators, either by self-identifying or from a sticker on the vehicle.

“Dangerous or reckless” driving behavior from Uber and Lyft vehicles is “the number one thing we hear from our members,” said San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Director Brian Wiedenmeier.

However, Jim Lazarus, of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, cautioned that ride-hail customers were Peskin’s constituents — and that they clearly depend on the transit option.

“The people of San Francisco have told you how they want to get around,” he said.

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