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Uber drivers in SF to receive cyclist safety training

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An Uber vehicle drives alongside a cyclist on Market Street in San Francisco on March 16. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

An Uber driver stood, shaken, as he relayed to police how his car had struck a bicyclist at Market and Powell streets Wednesday afternoon.

The driver, who would only identify himself as Brian, said his hurried passenger swung open her door around 4:30 p.m. and struck the bicyclist, who suffered non life-threatening injuries.

Incidents like these are why Uber is partnering with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition to offer exclusive video training in bicyclist safety.

The training launches today in the Bay Area, a first in the U.S. for the ride-hail company.

The video will be distributed as part of Uber’s driver training, which already includes a vast video library new drivers are required to watch. The four training videos will be released on a rolling basis, according to Uber, and also sent to existing drivers.

One of the videos even addresses “dooring,” much like Wednesday’s incident.

“We increasingly hear from our members that vehicles blocking the bike lane, turning in a dangerous manner, those kinds of incidents are affecting their safety,” said Brian Wiedenmeier, the bike coalition’s executive director.

Just a day before the training videos were set to launch, a vigilante cyclist going by the Twitter handle of “SFMTrA,” or “SF Transformation,” began placing orange cones around The City’s bike lanes.

One of those orange cones held a sign aloft that said “bikes” and an arrow pointed to the bike lane, and “Uber” with an arrow pointing to the car lanes.

The new training videos will perhaps smooth over such conflicts, Wiedenmeier said.

“This will be watched by thousands of drivers, we couldn’t pass it up,” he said.

The bicycle coalition provides in-person bicycle safety driving courses to 800 drivers annually, including tow truck drivers from Autoreturn, Recology garbage truck drivers, tech shuttle drivers and taxi drivers.

But taxis are by far less dominant on San Francisco’s roads nowadays.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency said there are 1,800 permitted taxis citywide, whereas data from the San Francisco Treasurer’s Office revealed there are about 37,000 active Uber and Lyft drivers in San Francisco.

Uber and Lyft hold the number of drivers close to the vest, but the bicycle coalition said “tens of thousands” of Uber drivers in the Bay Area would now learn how to drive safely around cyclists.

The first video begins with a bird’s eye view of city bike lanes.

“All streets are bike streets with the exception of freeways,” the video intones. It reviews the 3-feet space law, speeding, and “dooring.”

Some of the safety rules reviewed are specific to San Francisco. For instance, one video offers a primer on the “contra flow” bike lane on Polk Street, which flows opposite to car traffic, and parking protected bike lanes.

Like the new Uber-bike training, both are mostly unique to San Francisco.

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