- Uber launched an in-app pilot to remind passengers to watch out for cyclists before they leave the car.
- The feature will send a push notification to passengers if their destination is next to a bike lane or other lane markings.
- The pilot is live in New York City, San Francisco, Toronto, and Washington, D.C.
If you ride in the city, you’ve probably dealt with the dangerous practice of dooring: when people open car doors into a cyclist’s path, hitting them directly or forcing them to swerve into traffic. Perhaps you’ve been doored yourself.
Cabs, Ubers, and other car services can be a particular hazard, with frequent drop-offs next to—or even in—bike lanes meaning an incautious passenger might swing a door open into a cyclist’s space unexpectedly. (In most cases this is against the rules, although there seems to be very little recourse for cyclists. In New York City, for instance, it’s illegal to pick up or drop off passengers in bike lanes, but in 2016 the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission said it wouldn’t enforce the law.)
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Now, Uber wants to help address the problem with a new in-app pilot. This week, the company announced that it will begin to alert passengers to the presence of bike lanes at their drop-off points with a push notification. Lyft, Uber’s main ride-hailing competitor, released a in April.
“Drop off near bike lane,” the notification reads. “A helpful reminder: Look over your shoulder for people on bikes before opening the door.”
The tool uses publicly available mapping data to locate bike lanes or shared lane markings. Kristin Smith, Uber’s road safety product marketing manager, said passengers should get the notification about 480 meters, or 2-3 blocks, away from their destination
For now, the pilot will go live in only four cities: New York, San Francisco, Toronto, and Washington, D.C. Smith, who resides in San Francisco, said they were selected due to their robust cycling and advocacy communities, as well as the availability of mapping data.
Smith, a longtime bike commuter and former communications director for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, said dooring is the number-two cause of injuries in her hometown. She’s been doored herself in the past.
“We’re really hoping to shape people’s behaviors with how they interact with each other on the street,” Smith said. “We want to be as proactive as possible.”
The company also launched a public safety campaign, releasing videos on topics like the Dutch reach—a trick for using your opposite hand to open a car door, thereby forcing you to turn and look out for cyclists. (People should do this no matter where they’re stopped, as cyclists have the legal right of way in travel lanes even when bike markings aren’t present.)
Drivers, meanwhile, won’t receive the same notification as passengers. The conflict over Uber and Lyft drivers blocking bike lanes has boiled over in some cities; in March, cyclists in Boston sent a letter to the ride-hailing companies asking them to stop the practice. Smith said Uber is working to keep drivers informed about cycling safety, including a reminder that it’s illegal in many cities to stop in a bike lane.
The new feature coincides with a push among ride-hailing apps to expand into bike services. Last year Uber acquired Jump, a dockless electric bike share start-up, and it’s seen quite a bit of success: Early numbers suggest the e-bikes may be more popular than Uber’s car service in select areas. A few months later, Lyft bought Motivate, a major bike share operator with systems in New York, D.C., Chicago, and elsewhere.
Smith said Uber expects to expand the bike lane notifications to other markets, but doesn’t yet have a timeline or a list of cities in mind.