Not even a decade ago, jumping in a car with a stranger sounded foreign and dangerous. Ironically, today, nothing has done more to increase my safety as a young woman than Uber and Lyft.
Think about it. No more creepy, untraceable cabs.
I can’t tell you the number of cab drivers I suffered in my college years who were unreliable at best, and often crooks. They’d take longer routes than necessary, drive dangerously, hit on you, or lie about the fare. I even had one try to hold me hostage in his car because I didn’t have cash. (It said right on his window that his company took cards).
Back then, if you wanted to leave a situation you had to call a cab (which may or may not show up), wait outside alone by the road (often late at night), and then hope you had an honest driver that wouldn’t try to take advantage of you or otherwise harass you.
It was scary.
Not only that, but given the price and length of time it would take to call a cab, you would often be left stuck in situations you wanted out of—bars with rowdy men, house parties that were becoming uncomfortable, friends who’d had too much to drink to be driving, fights with romantic partners—the list goes on.
Ridesharing changed all of that.
From the moment they hit the scene, Uber and Lyft provided an assured and immediate escape route away from whatever situation you were in. They drastically reduced drunk driving. And their app allowed people to agree upon the pay and route beforehand, track the progress to ensure everything went as planned, and remove the need to exchange actual cash in the process.
It was revolutionary.
While this technology surely benefitted men too, these advances cannot be underestimated for women, who are simply at greater risk in many of these scenarios.
For these reasons and more, I have been a staunch supporter of these companies and a very frequent customer for years. I have no intention of removing my patronage—the gains are too significant.
But I do have a critique of the companies at the moment.
Uber and Lyft have often been criticized by the Left for their business model of classifying their drivers as independent contractors. It’s often a disingenuous attack with ulterior motives. (The Left is in bed with big unions who want to push everyone back into old school, 9-5 employment arrangements so that they can get a cut of their pay).
But in actuality, their business model makes perfect sense. Drivers drive their own cars, set their own hours, and choose which clients to do business with. The apps are merely the conduits to the exchange of goods in the relationship.
Yet with that in mind, the companies’ current mask mandates make no sense.
Both Uber and Lyft have demanded their drivers and riders wear masks at all times during COVID. They make riders indicate they are following procedure before a ride can be confirmed, and each has mechanisms that allow riders or drivers to snitch on one another through the platform should a mask not be worn.
Ultimately, if either is reported for not wearing a mask on numerous occasions, they can be banned from the platform altogether. That means drivers hesitate to let their guard down and take off their masks even when clients express they do not care—because it could be a trap.
As a frequent passenger, I can tell you firsthand how much most drivers hate this policy.
Some speak out about it, others kindly tell you they won’t report you if you want to leave your mask off, and others sullenly pull their masks back up when they pull up to greet you. The whole thing is very stupid, because most passengers don’t want to wear the masks either.
This is the kind of decision that ought to be up to the driver and the passenger, no one else.
Why do these platforms believe they have the right to tell independent contractors what to do in their own cars? And to make matters even sillier, both apps have the technology needed to easily solve this problem and meet the needs of all passengers and drivers: just let people indicate their preferred mask/no mask stance and then connect those drivers to that pool of riders.
Many believe that the companies are currently employing these policies because of federal mandates. That is inaccurate. They are private companies that have the ability to set their own policies.
Currently, they’ve done a poor job of that, and the proof is in the pudding. Virtually no city in the US has enough drivers at a given moment. Wait times are extremely long, and because there are fewer drivers prices have been through the roof.
They could easily attract more drivers to the field if they would get rid of their asinine mask policy. Uber and Lyft have a history of providing consumers with the tools they need to control their own bodily autonomy and safety. They should extend that history to this issue as well and put a long-overdue end to their idiotic mask requirements.