Uber and other ride-share companies are becoming a popular way to get around Spokane. For many, the ease of getting a ride and the lower costs compared to a taxi are reasons enough to take an Uber. Cycling in Spokane is also seeing an increase in ridership and popularity. In 2014, the League of American Bicyclists has recognized Spokane with a Bronze level Bicycle Friendly Community Award.
When Uber and Cyclists Meet
The increasing popularity of Uber and cycling has its downside as Uber and bicycles end up bumping into each other. There are around 90 miles of bile lanes in Spokane with plans for more. For cycling advocates, these lanes are important as they increase safety and make it easier for cyclist to get around the city.
Spokane Bike Lane Laws
Spokane’s Municipal Code Section 16A 61.570 states that cars may not park or stop in a bike lane except “when necessary to avoid conflict with other traffic, or in compliance with law or the directions of a police officer or official traffic control device .“ Spokane bike advocates applaud the rule but wish for harsher penalties and stricter enforcement.
Picking Up/Dropping Off
Uber cars drop off and pick up their customers curbside most of the time, and that often puts them smack in the middle of a bike lane. This can be dangerous for a cyclist who doesn’t expect to see a car in the bike lane. While it’s illegal, it still happens frequently forcing cyclist to be more vigilant.
Dooring is a problem wherever there are bikes and parked cars. It happens when a cyclist rides by a parked or stopped car and someone opens the car door right in the path of the cyclist. This can cause severe injuries to the cyclist.
This happens in bike lanes where a car is stopped (legally or illegally) and cyclist veers around the stopped car only to get a door for their efforts. Another way is on streets with no bike lane but the space next to the curb has cars legally parked. The cyclist is riding on the right-hand side of the street—as sometimes required by law—and gets doored by an Uber passenger or other car occupant.
Liability and Insurance
Unfortunately, when cyclists and Uber cars try to occupy the same spot at the same time, it’s typically the cyclist that gets injured. Under Washington law , the person who is at-fault will have to pay for the property damages and bodily injuries.
Also by law, all Uber drivers are required to have insurance, and Uber itself has at least a $1 million policy for damages done by their drivers. However, there is a catch: if the driver is not currently on a trip and hits a cyclist, then the company’s million-dollar policy can’t be used, and the driver’s insurance will have to cover the losses.
Many times, this is no problem, but if the damages are significant, their policy might cap out and leave some losses unpaid.
Closing the Gap
In 2015, Washington begin requiring a higher minimum for ride-share drivers. The law doubled the minimum insurance requirements to $50,000 bodily injury, $100,000 for two or more inured for all ride-share drivers and tripled the property minimum to $30,000.
This was to offset the higher risk that cyclist and others face by Uber and other ride-share companies because of the increased time these drivers are out in the community.