‘Fed up’ cyclists send letter to Uber, Lyft asking drivers to stop obstructing bike lanes
Bicycle and pedestrian advocacy groups sent a letter this week to Uber and Lyft, calling on the ride-share companies to improve driver education about the hazards of stopping and pulling over in designated bike lanes.
The letter, dated Feb. 25, was signed by 14 local organizations, including the Somerville Bicycle Committee, the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition, the Boston Cyclists Union, Arlington Bicycle Advisory Committee, and Cambridge Bicycle Safety.
In the letter, the groups expressed concern about “the persistent problem of drivers of rideshare vehicles obstructing designated bicycle lanes while in the process of picking up/dropping off their passengers.”
“When bike lanes are obstructed by a vehicle, cyclists must ride alongside motor vehicles, where they are unduly exposed to heavy truck, bus, and automobile traffic,” they wrote. “Furthermore, obstructed bike lanes increase the danger of bicyclists being hit by an opening car door.”
Advocates claim it happens “with maddening frequency” and has become “more acute” as the popularity of ride-share services has increased.
“Standing” or parking in a bike lane is illegal in Massachusetts, under the so-called “Bike Lane Bill,” signed into law by Governor Charlie Baker in 2017.
The coalition that wrote to Uber and Lyft offered to work with the companies to better refine driver conduct, so the streets will remain safe for bike lane users.
“We believe that we can work together to solve this persistent and dangerous practice,” the letter said. “You have the power to direct your drivers to change their behaviors with respect to obstructing bike lanes.”
The group included a list of ideas to help solve the issue, including educating drivers through video tutorials; sending cellphone alerts to drivers and passengers reminding customers to check for cyclists before opening the door; and working with cities and towns to promote designated drop-off and pick-up zones.
Uber and Lyft said this week they’re amenable to sitting down with members of the various groups to discuss concerns.
In a statement to the Globe, Uber spokesman Harry Hartfield said the company believes streets “should be safe for all users — pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers alike.”
“We regularly educate drivers on the rules and regulations on bike lanes,” he said, “and hope to meet with these groups to address their concerns.”
Lyft, which acquired Motivate last year, operator of the Boston area’s Blue Bikes system, recently hired Caroline Samponaro to oversee the company’s bike, scooter, and pedestrian policies.
In an e-mail, Samponaro said the she’s “excited” to meet with cyclists and work together on points raised in the letter.
“As both a bikeshare and rideshare operator in the Boston metro area, we agree that sharing the road safely is paramount,” she said.
Kevin McGrath, a member of the Somerville Bicycle Committee and the letter’s lead author, said Friday that Lyft has a meeting with the groups at the end of March.
“I’m glad that they are saying they want to work with us,” McGrath said. “That’s really what we wanted out of this was to start this conversation.”