While the new management at driver and rider matching service Uber tries to figure out how to worm its way back into the affections of Transport for London, and finds that its first meeting with the capital’s Taxi and Private Hire regulator has gone less well than expected, more questions are being raised about the safety of this particular offering.
The figures on sexual assaults, and the concerns of the Metropolitan Police over the way that Uber passes on information about them - or sometimes doesn’t - are already well known to Zelo Street regulars. To these must be added yet more similar indiscretions committed by Uber drivers around the country, as reported last weekend by the Sunday Times’ deputy political editor Caroline Wheeler. Some may have been TfL registered.
But it is the string of apparent Uber accidents - the litany of photos of variously bent vehicles, mostly the Uber default Toyota Prius - that are now the focus of attention. This is for two reasons: one, there are a lot of incidents being not only reported, but also recorded on photo and video, with some involving injury or even death of third parties, and two, The Met have not yet released the figures. Some of the accounts do not inspire confidence.
The @8BitTaxi Twitter account has compiled a host of images showing the result of what look to be Uber vehicles having been “shunted”, “bent”, “pranged”, or occasionally flipped on their roofs. Other cars, cyclists, moped riders, motorcyclists, pedestrians, baby buggies, all have taken their turn to be struck and damaged. The TaxiLeaks blog has more.
“Photos uploaded on social media platforms show overturned motors, battered bonnets and cars crashed into buildings - all reported to be driven by drivers working for … Uber … Twitter and Facebook photos show drivers, reportedly working for Uber, turning the wrong way down one-way roads, knocking cyclists off their bikes and smashing into lamp posts”. The accounts from Uber passengers make grim reading.
“My Uber driver has just passed his test and has no idea what Gatwick airport is” told one. Another recalled “My Uber driver was telling me he has only been in the UK and driving for two weeks” before adding that the driver in question was driving the wrong way up a one way street. A bystander observed “One of your drivers (Uber) attempts U turn in busy New Kent Rd, almost killing a motorcyclist”. And that was only up to last year.
The urgency attached to getting this information released means that there is an FoI on the go with the Met, which has been chased up today. Why that might be - quite apart from the information being highly relevant to whether Uber has any prospect of securing another operator’s licence in London - was just illustrated by the Evening Standard.
“A motorcyclist has died after a crash with a Toyota Prius on a bridge in west London … The rider, a man aged 35, was pronounced dead at the scene … The driver of the Prius stopped at the scene and no arrests have been made, police said”. Most of these Prius prangs are Uber drivers. Once again, a bent car and now another dead third party.
Uber needs not only to show it is fit and proper to hold a Private Hire licence. It needs to do something about its London safety record - and a lot more. More on this one soon.