uber driver coronavirus

An Open Letter to Uber and Lyft Drivers Right Now

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And to the rideshare companies who should be ashamed for not doing the right thing —making their app unavailable.

Dear fellow Uber and Lyft drivers,

I am Tony. I am one of you. About six years ago, I started driving Uber as a side gig, as a way to pay off a car, drive around this weird and wonderful town and fill some nights that would be otherwise uneventful.

Over the years, I racked up over 5,000 trips. I became addicted to being an Uber driver in a good way. I drove anytime I had spare time — for years.

But no way in hell would I be driving right now.

This coronavirus has the world in a panic for one reason only: it kills.

Uber knows how deadly the virus is. Nearly a week ago, it instructed its 27,000 corporate employees around the world to go home.

The company could have easily turned off the app so that the drivers could afford the same safety — but each day, they continue to put their “partners” at risk.

They can do this, in part, because L.A. drivers are like Han “don’t tell me the odds” Solo. Since the beginning, we have been driving at night with drunks in the back; we drive through notorious gang territories, we wind our way up and down some of the worst freeways in the country and we go in and out of LAX nightmares several times a day.

Nothing deters us. Not rain, not mudslides, not fires, not Rose Bowl crowds or endless rate cuts.

Uber and Lyft know that drivers will plod on even if death and/or serious illness are staring us in the face.

They count on the fact that surge pricing will entice some drivers, and that the delight of driving on near-empty roads will encourage us to put ourselves in danger. Uber and Lyft know that even if we don’t get sick ourselves, we could be carriers of a deadly disease and transmit it to someone else. This should stop us all.

Why are you even driving if there’s any threat? And why isn’t Uber truly limiting the threat and shutting off access to the app? How is this not a deadly dance of desperation and greed?

But so many drivers are desperate. These companies know that and count on it to keep us on the roads. Ironic, because for these ride-share startups that care so very much about profits, they have never come close to turning one.

Early this morning, Uber gave in a little and announced they were getting rid of Pool for a while so it could cut down the threat.

Why are you even driving if there’s any threat? And why aren’t they truly limiting the threat and shutting off access to the app? How is this not a deadly dance of desperation and greed?

I know many drive because it’s their job right now. And we all know Uber and Lyft have a long history of not doing what’s in the best interest of drivers. Their customer service for drivers is the worst. They have shut down their Greenlight Hubs as well as their Los Angeles office. They flood the streets with vehicles and have turned a situation where drivers once were able to make a living into a hustle where drivers quit after a month or two because it simply isn’t sustainable.

Which leads to today. Today is the most dangerous time to drive strangers from airports. Uber and Lyft know this. They know airports don’t test passengers for this virus. And those people hop in the car and you are next to them — closer than you should be. Uber says to roll down the window. Ummm.

Driving for Uber and Lyft can be fun. You can meet cool people, and you can see the city in a new way. But today, it’s too dangerous. Consider delivering, says our editor-at-large. Photo by Tony Pierce.

These are companies that have lost billions a quarter investing in robot cars to replace humans. They could take everyone off the road and compensate them before they get sick. But they won’t. They’re gonna make you get sick first before they take care of you.

Any driver who has had a passenger puke in their car knows what a runaround a simple cleaning fee is to receive. Imagine the hoops one will have to jump through to get lost wages due to this serious virus.

But there’s an alternative. Because cities have been shutting down restaurants these last few days, deliveries are bound to rise quickly. And because lots of people are working from home now, social distancing and hunkering down, the roads are clear.

While it may have taken a long time to deliver a bag of food from Hollywood to downtown a month ago, it only takes a fraction of that time right now due to the lack of traffic.

And best of all, many delivery companies have No-Contact delivery options for diners who don’t want to come close to their delivery people. All you have to do is leave the food at the door. Which makes things safer for you too.

I don’t care if you sign up for Postmates, GrubHub, DoorDash or UberEats. I just don’t want you to drive with a passenger in the back of your ride until all of this is sorted out.

Uber and Lyft won’t say it, but I will: Your life matters and the people who you come in contact with, either directly or indirectly, matter too.

In a perfect world, Uber and Lyft would be writing this and helping everyone out financially, but that would be out of character.

Do the right thing my friends and stop driving. Do delivery. Enjoy these empty freeways. And best of all, enjoy the tips that delivery people get, ’cause Lord knows Uber drivers rarely see those.

Los Angeleno