After a while, driving through the lawless streets of San Francisco is like playing Galaga. (Cindy Chew/2007 S.F. Examiner)

After a while, driving through the lawless streets of San Francisco is like playing Galaga. (Cindy Chew/2007 S.F. Examiner)

Where the streets have no rules

It figures. Just when I’m finally getting Zen about sharing the road with all these Ubers and Lyfts, on Saturday night I have an altercation in the Pier 39 taxi stand …

I start my shift at Caltrain, where an SFMTA officer is giving out tickets to Uber and Lyft cars for pulling into the taxi stand. That’s not something you see much of these days: laws being enforced. It’s almost quaint, like a Norman Rockwell painting. I could sit here for hours and joyously watch the confused looks on the faces of the drivers as they try to figure out what just happened.

They must not be KRON viewers, since Stanley Roberts recently did a segment on this very activity in this exact spot for his “People Behaving Badly” series. 

In the short time I’m there, the officer issues three citations, one of which is for a two-door sedan.

“Hold your fire!” I want to yell. “It’s a civilian.” But justice is blind.

I’m geared up to see more hapless victims suffer the consequences of using the taxi stand when, unfortunately, I get a fare.

Later, I check out the Golden Gate Bridge to see if any tourists need a ride back downtown. After waiting around for 15 minutes, an Australian couple gets in. They’re going to Pier 39.

Miraculously, I’m able to pull into the taxi stand to drop them off. Before they’ve even finished paying me, I’ve moved up three spots. But while I wait for a pedicab to do his thing, an Uber zooms into the space in front of me. And then hits his hazards.
Motherfu …

I shouldn’t be surprised. The whole weekend feels like a drivers ed flunky convention, as if every nincompoop in Northern California with an underutilized automobile is converging upon The City with backward Cs on their windshields.

Naturally, traffic mayhem ensues.
Some maneuvers are more egregious than others. Like, I didn’t know cutsies were allowed with making a left-hand turn. And I suppose those lane restrictions don’t really apply if you find them inconvenient.

After a while, it’s like playing Galaga. Except I don’t have blasters on the front of my cab …

A while back, this guy was telling me that Muni is free at night. I had not received this memo, so I asked for his source.

“What do you mean?” he asks. “There’s no enforcement after dark, so you don’t have to pay the fare.”

Interesting concept. The same must be true with traffic laws. If there’s no one around to catch you, it’s not a real violation.

Even though making illegal moves can lead to potentially greater consequences than The City losing out on a $2 fare, the laissez faire attitude of the San Francisco Police Department seems to be just letting cars smash into each other. Everything will sort itself out, right?

To be honest, responding to a three-car collision under the Central Freeway with potential injuries does sound way more exciting than writing an Uber driver a ticket for double-parking on Van Ness. Let’s just not go into the petty details of how one response costs taxpayers money and the other generates money …

The fine for illegally using a taxi stand is $106. That’s a nice slap on the wrist. But SFMTA officers can’t be everywhere at all times. They also don’t work at night. So when faced with a situation like the one at Pier 39, where an Uber driver is now staging in a taxi stand — I mean, he’s not even moving forward as the cabs in front of him get fares and drive away — I have to deal with the matter myself.

I keep my cool. Walk up to his car. Rap on his window. Give him the usual spiel. He looks at me like I’m crazy. Gets indignant. Now I’m at a crossroads. He’s clearly in the wrong, but he thinks he can do whatever he wants. Silly me for trying to stand in his way.
So what do I do?

Not my first instinct, obviously. When faced with abject self-entitlement, I tend to escalate rapidly.

Instead, I start filming him with my iPhone. If there’s anything I’ve learned from watching Stanley Roberts — besides the fact that he’s one of the few people in the Bay Area trying to curb bad behavior — it’s that scofflaws don’t like to be recorded.

Kelly Dessaint is a San Francisco taxi driver. Write to Kelly at or visit his blog at Drive SFKelly DessaintLyftSan FranciscotaxiTransitUber

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