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  • Writer's pictureDave Shellnutt

UBER vs Cyclists: Inadequate training puts Cyclists at Risk - An Update

The Biking Lawyer: Do you have experience driving in Toronto? How much?

Uber Driver: [This was my] first time driving for Uber in Toronto

The Biking Lawyer: Do you know that Toronto has a lot of cyclists?

Uber Driver: [I] found out that day.

The Biking Lawyer: Do you take extra precaution for cyclists?

Uber Driver: [I do] now.

The Biking Lawyer: Does Uber provide specific training for cyclists?

Uber Driver: Not that I can recall. No notifications for bike safety.

This was an exchange we had with an Uber driver at an examination for discovery (evidence given under oath).

The case involved a crash that occurred as a result of this Uber driver dangerously turning left into our cyclist client’s path. Our client was seriously injured as a result.

What this exchange is indicative of is the huge number of untrained and inexperienced commercial drivers working in Toronto. They are employed and incentivized by massive corporations to drive at all hours, in all conditions, across this city with limited training and education on the unique environment they are driving in.**

“Their business model depends on being able to get a precarious workforce in and out as quickly as possible and that doesn’t work if you require that precarious workforce to be well trained in how to operate safely,” - Councillor Gord Perks, Ward 4- Parkdale-High Park

As much as we see benefit in services like Uber/Lyft, mass commercial transport in the hands of untrained/under trained drivers is a massive road safety issue. When we're cycling, we have near misses with Uber or Lyft drivers a few times a week. We also represent cyclists seriously injured in collisions with these drivers.

On one occasion, a driver inched into the painted bike lane on Richmond Street without indicating or looking in the mirror to see that I was in the bike lane he was illegally entering. He was so close to me, I had to bang on his car for him to notice me and stop from pushing me off the road. I know those who commute by bike in urban centers would express similar stories, from the mundane annoyance to harrowing tales of near death.

My friend Steve put it well, ‘with a marked taxi you are aware that there will likely be some sort of erratic behaviour as they search for fares or drop people off. You can anticipate their moves and protect yourself. Ubers are unmarked and swing into a bike lane to drop someone off without warning or even opportunity for your Spidey sense to go off.’

We wrote this article back in 2019. Now, it turns out the City of Toronto will require new Ride Share drivers (before they start) and existing drivers to go through a training course by 2023.

However, the City website confirms this has not been going well:

The driver training program offered by DRVR Hub was suspended by the City from July 8 to August 21, after an audit identified concerns. The City has reviewed the training information of all drivers who had taken the DRVR Hub training before the suspension, and considered a number of factors including the length of time taken to complete the online course. It was determined that drivers completing the training in less than three hours may not have sufficiently engaged with the course content given the scope of training.

Delays to implement training, inadequacies in programming, etc., all come at the expense of vulnerable road user safety. At some point, the scale between consumer convenience and the safety of vulnerable road users must be reset.

That changes implemented in 2020 by the City of Toronto Vehicle-for-Hire Bylaw, have taken this long to implement and remained riddled with issues is problematic. We are keen to see updates from the City about how this training goes in 2023, what the incidence of collisions involving Ride Share drivers are going forward, and what proactive measures are being taken to keep us safe.

Uber, Lyft and the City of Toronto can and should engage with the cycling community to help provide all vehicle for hire drivers with effective safety training. This training must have a cyclist/vulnerable road user component with instruction around the proper navigation of bike lanes. Drivers must be live to the fact they are in a city where year-round you will encounter people on bikes. Training in safety measures, predictive and defensive driving, are but a few areas we think should be part of any training.

Spring/Summer riding season is fast approaching. Thousands of people on bikes will be getting back into the saddle across Ontario. Without safety training, we will have to endure another season of severe injuries, near misses, harrowing tales or worse.

We represent an unfortunately large number of cyclists injured by Ride Share drivers. Report your collision and contact us for a free consultation.

** This is in no way an attack on the many people (often young people) working tirelessly, trying to make some income. They are helping people like me. I take Uber. I appreciate sending my mom in an Uber, so that I can track her whereabouts and ensure she gets home safe. But, this service does not come without costs, more appropriately and powerfully outlined here.

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