Losing rider safety when losing Uber

The authorities of Colombia said they are planning to enforce existing laws that could cause drivers of on-demand transportation apps such as Uber and Cabify to lose their driver’s license for a duration of up to 25 years, according to CNN Español. In other words, if you drive for Uber or competitor Cabify (headquartered in Madrid) and get caught, your whole livelihood would be in danger.

This is great news for the country’s taxi lobby and cab drivers, but bad news for riders, whether locals or tourists. For several reasons, taking an Uber in Bogota or Medellín is much wiser than hailing a cab.

Taxis in Medellín protesting against Uber

Locals I met during my travels to Medellín had all bad experiences about taxi drivers to tell, from having been robbed by a driver to having been harassed. Also, many cab drivers possess surprisingly little knowledge of the roads and seem to be unwilling or unable to properly use smartphone apps to find their best way through the traffic (that’s based on my own experience as well as what I have been told by locals). Presumably, the real black sheep are in the minority. Yet, it’s enough for the younger generation of locals who live in areas with good Uber coverage to prefer Uber over taxis. Of course, even using Uber doesn’t guarantee total safety, but thanks to the ratings systems and the driver tracking, the probability of a seamless ride increases significantly.

In addition, the yellow taxis are an easy target for robbers who tend to operate on motorbikes and who threaten passengers at gunpoint to get valuables. While regular cars can be a target as well, when sitting in a taxi, one makes it particularly easy to those looking for a victim.

Furthermore, most taxis in Colombia are rather small vehicles, often without (working) AC, and some are not in the best condition. Generally, the Uber X rides I took happened in cars that were of better standard and size than the average taxi would be.

In the moment in which transportation apps are forced to cease operations in a country such as Colombia, it significantly reduces people’s ability to opt for safety when having to go somewhere.

Other than during travel in developing countries, I personally hardly ever use Uber (nor Taxis). I am in no way an Uber evangelist. But in certain markets, aside from potential savings for riders (which are a more controversial topic, in my eyes) there are undeniable benefits to Uber which – if removed – would make life harder for locals. And naturally, for visitors even more.

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