Yesterday afternoon at City Hall, hundreds of cab drivers gathered to forcefully express their disapproval of Mayor Ed Lee and rideshare companies Lyft, Uber, and SideCar. I went to sample the most recent outbreak in the City's Summer of Vehicular Vitriol.
I was not disappointed. In front of City Hall, there were more than a hundred cabbies carrying signs with pictures of a pink-mustachioed Ed Lee and slogans such as "SideCar Sidesteps Regulations" and "#Lyft #Liars". In addition, a fleet of cabs circled City hall blasting their horns at full volume, which could be heard as far away as the Civic Center BART station.
Hansu Kim, owner of the DeSoto cab company, accused the City of "facilitating criminal and illegal activity" because local government isn't fining rideshare drivers for operating without cab permits. Vice President of the San Francisco Cab Drivers Association, Jeffrey Rosen argued that "We, the cabdrivers of San Francisco, are the real community drivers." I heard one speaker accuse the rideshare drivers of refusing to take fares to dicey neighborhoods like the Bayview.
Unsurprisingly, the atmosphere was rife with sharp animosity. As soon as I arrived on the scene, a cabbie leaped out of his car and grabbed a pedestrian. Grabbing him by the collar, the cabbie shouted, "What did you do to my car?" I couldn't tell what the pedestrian had done, but the cabbie seemed to think that he had defiled the car. If that wasn't enough, a SideCar driver showed up, and was showered with boos and shouts of "Scab!" by the cabbies. The SideCar driver, Teddy Ordon, who told me that he works as an architecture assistant by day, left. When I tried to talk more with him, a 6'4" cabbie shouted the both of us down.
There's something about those pink mustaches that really gets under the skin of the cabbies. During the time I was at City Hall, I noticed that more shade was being thrown Lyft's way than at SideCar or Uber. I mean, you might be mad if a pink mustache was eating into your livelihood. One cabbie I talked to singled out Lyft as the reason why he's barely breaking $250 on a Saturday night instead the usual $400.
The anger doesn't just flow one way, though. For some directed at the taxis, look at this thread on the San Francisco section of reddit in which the cab companies get bashed like pinatas. The OP of the forum said, "Part of the reason people like Lyft [and] Uber [is that] you have mistreated passengers for years. How many times have we entered a cab at night and have been refused service because it would take you to the Sunset or the Richmond?" Another redditor was even more acidic: "The cabbies around here are rude, drive like assholes, lie to you, and scam you. That is, if you can get one to stop for you."
Unfortunately for the cabbies and fortunately for users of the rideshare apps, the California Public Utility Commission has effectively given the rideshare companies the go-ahead to continue their business. Could a cab driver strike be on the horizon? None of the official speakers at City Hall mentioned the possibility, but I did hear a few cabbies mutter about just such a thing. One thing is for sure, the way this summer has been going, anything could happen.