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Why Is Bill De Blasio Trying to Kill Me? New York’s Mayor Claims to Be Progressive but Favors Drivers Over Bicyclists.

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FOR A NUMBER of years, when I was covering wars in places like Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan, I would wake up in the morning and conduct a risk assessment of what I planned to do during the day. I carefully considered the dangers ahead — ambushes, land mines, bombings, kidnapping — and how to avoid or mitigate them. I ran endless scenarios through my mind, and when I headed out into the insanity of the day, I was extremely vigilant to signs of trouble.

I never expected that the risk-assessment skills I developed in war zones would be relevant to my life as a Brooklyn dad with a desk job in Manhattan, but that was before I started biking to work. It’s not that the hazards of biking in New York City are reminiscent of the frontlines around Sarajevo, but let me say this — I was kind of crazy to do the things I did back in my war reporter days, and I am kind of crazy to ride a bike in New York City. This time, the leader I blame for the mayhem around me is not a warlord or a war criminal: He is Bill de Blasio, the supposedly progressive mayor of New York who says all the right things about the need to respond to the world’s climate emergency yet refuses to do the one thing in his own city that would save the lives of his constituents and the planet we all live on.

As you might have heard, there has been a spike in cyclists killed in New York City; the count is up to 22 so far this year, more than double the amount for all of last year, and the latest victim, killed by a truck just a day ago, was a 14-year-old boy. There have also been more pedestrians killed by cars this year, including a 10-year-old boy who was waiting for a bus earlier this month when the driver of an SUV plowed over the sidewalk and killed him, and a 1-year-old girl in a stroller who was killed just days ago by yet another SUV driver who jumped a curb. There’s not just the death toll: Last year, nearly 11,000 pedestrians were injured by cars in the city, according to the Department of Transportation, and the number of bikers hurt was close to 5,000. That’s not even a full accounting, because it’s based on reports to the New York Police Department; lots of biker and pedestrian injuries go unreported, because why bother? A few years ago, after I had to jump out of the way of a bus that still grazed me as it illegally turned into a crosswalk, a police officer on the scene asked me to not file a report — I assume because he didn’t want the hassle of the paperwork. I filed a report.

If you regularly ride a bike, you know all too well the bloody story that soulless mortality spreadsheets don’t convey. During any ride, there will likely be a couple of occasions on which, if you did not quickly brake for a car that illegally crossed into your path at an intersection, or did not shout at the oblivious pedestrian walking into your bike lane, or pull aside to avoid a biker going the wrong way, or swerve to avoid a suddenly opening car door, or notice the 5-inch pothole just ahead, you would end up as another digit in the statistical category that the city describes as KSI — which stands for “Killed or Seriously Injured.” I never expected that a phrase I often whispered to myself at the end of a busy day in a war zone — “I could have died today” — is one I continue to whisper at the end of a two-wheeled journey home. And I’ve got it easy, because I don’t ride a bike for a living, all day long, as legions of low-wage workers must do in the messenger and food-delivery trades.

There’s a particularly demented nightmare that haunts the cyclists of New York City (or at least me): getting doored. That’s what happens when you’re biking on one of de Blasio’s unprotected lanes, and someone in a stationary car, just inches to your side, opens their door without bothering to check whether a cyclist is coming. You were riding along and following the rules and trusting de Blasio’s encouragements to ride a bike in the great metropolis of New York when suddenly, like a flipper in a pinball machine — but this isn’t a pinball machine, it’s a street, and it’s your life — a door opens and smacks into you. The injuries you suffer at that moment can be quite severe, but the worst may be just ahead. When cyclists are doored by parked cars, they tend to fall into the street, where they can get run over by a moving vehicle. In New York, eight cyclists have been doored to death since 2014.

THERE’S A POINT of commonality between the chaos of New York biking and the mayhem of far-flung war zones. Chaos is not a condition that just happens like an act of God or magic. It must be created. Societies are not always or naturally at war – most are at peace most of the time, if not all the time. When war happens, it is largely the product of decisions and actions by powerful leaders who create the destabilization required for hostilities to break out. That is what is happening in the streets of New York under the neglectful and hypocritical rule of Mayor de Blasio.

When de Blasio was elected mayor in 2013, he inherited a city that was quickly moving to a future much more free of cars than its past, thanks to the surprisingly forward-looking policies of his predecessor, the billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who was terrible in most ways but was great on the issue of cars, pedestrians, and bikes. Bloomberg, who famously took the subway a fair amount (de Blasio prefers his city-provided SUV), infuriated drivers and businesses by speeding up the installation of bike lanes and, among other things, turning Times Square into a pedestrian-friendly zone — a move that has ended up being immensely successful.

Bike lanes have expanded in de Blasio’s time but at a shameful pace and in a frankly dangerous way. Most new lanes are not protected. Instead of a firm barrier that moving cars are unable to cross, all that separates bike riders from their deaths is a painted line or a plastic stick every 20 or 30 yards. This has been referred to as a “paint and pray” policy: painting bike lanes and praying nobody will get hurt. It might be sufficient if several other things existed that do not. They include the following:

  • Drivers respecting the lines and not driving into bike lanes.
  • Delivery trucks and other vehicles not parking in bike lanes.
  • Drivers not opening their doors in front of bikers.
  • Police enforcing these rules.

These things do not prevail, which is the main reason bikers and pedestrians are being killed and injured by the tens of thousands every year. On my daily commute, it’s not unusual to encounter several delivery trucks, Ubers, or other vehicles parked in unprotected bike lanes on a single block, requiring me to merge into moving car traffic. Often the vehicles, rather than being stationary in the lane, are moving into it. Not long ago, I was riding in an unprotected lane near Union Square in Manhattan and a truck cut into it, forcing me to the curb to save my life. “This is a bike lane,” I shouted at the driver, to which he yelled back, “I don’t fucking care.”

As an excellent article by Aaron Gordon in Jalopnik noted about unprotected lanes, “Instead of directing cyclists to a few carefully designed, safe, protected routes, it spreads them out among dozens of lazy, dangerous, and haphazard ‘bike lanes’ inviting conflict.” Honestly, it feels like the de Blasio administration is luring us into a trap: “Here’s a new bike lane, please come and use it, you’re going to love it, ha ha ha.” But don’t take my word for it. Earlier this month, when someone on Twitter noted how dangerous it is to bike in New York City, the official account of Google Maps tweeted back, “Biking through New York isn’t for the faint of heart, my dude.” That tweet was later deleted and I suppose a social media intern at Google was sent packing for telling the truth.

AT THIS POINT, you might be thinking, Hold on, cyclists are a menace, too; they scare and injure pedestrians all the time. My response is that I totally agree. The moment I get off a bike I have to keep an eye out for cyclists – the ones who ride on the sidewalks, the ones who ride the wrong way on a street, the ones who speed through crosswalks. Bikers can be assholes. The nearest I came to an accident in recent months was when a guy on an electric bike came roaring at me going the wrong way in a protected lane. I swerved to avoid a crash and shouted at him, prompting him to turn around and threaten to punch me out. The guy was maybe 20 years old and totally high, but I found a way to shame him from actual violence. “I’m 59 years old,” I announced. “And you want to take me on? Really? Really?”

But let’s remember a key thing: Asshole cyclists are not the main problem. Last year, car drivers killed 115 pedestrians in New York City, while bicycle riders killed zero. Please don’t fall for the anti-bike propaganda of publications like the terrible New York Post, which loves to portray bikers as antifa horsemen of death. It’s an own-the-libs distraction.

Let’s stand back and look at what’s going on. The problem is the absence of an infrastructure that gives bikers, pedestrians, and even delivery trucks what they need so they don’t go to war against each other for the rat-infested crumbs of asphalt the city has them fighting over. Cyclists need protected lanes and prioritized lights all over the city. Give that to them and they won’t swarm the sidewalks, they won’t drive the wrong way all the time, and they won’t go through intersections when they shouldn’t. Give pedestrians the wide and safe sidewalks they need, the benches their weary legs desire, the trees that make shade in the summer, and calm streets in which the majority of space is devoted to the majority of people who are not in private cars. This has been proven to work — it’s not a risky leap, it’s been ridiculously successful in cities across the world, particularly in Europe.

This isn’t happening, and instead we’re pitted against each other. Honestly, I don’t hate the truck drivers parking in bike lanes; they are victims too. They can’t afford to not park there. The city — meaning Mayor de Blasio — has given them no choice, because so much curb space is taken up by parked cars. And their bosses at UPS, FedEx, and Amazon haven’t given them a choice, either: How can low-wage drivers possibly meet an unrealistic quota of deliveries unless they break the law and park in bike lanes? It’s time to wake up and realize this is a new sort of class warfare on the streets of our city. Let’s unite against our political and corporate bosses, not squabble among ourselves.

Let’s also remember that this should not be turned into a law enforcement problem addressed primarily by giving the NYPD yet more power over our lives. This is a design problem. The streets are chaotic and dangerous because they are badly configured, and there are too many cars, not because the NYPD isn’t handing out enough tickets. If protected bike lanes are built and more streets are designed so that private cars cannot travel on them or are discouraged from doing so, there will be no need to pray that the NYPD will do the right thing (after all, they have shown little interest in doing much with the powers they have — just go on Twitter and perform a search using the phrase “police parked in bike lane“).

AM I OVERREACTING? Well, look at who’s doing the biking. About 75 percent of the riders of Citi Bike, the bike sharing program in New York, are male. A lot of women do not feel comfortable riding bikes in this city, and that’s fundamentally unfair. And look at the ages of the males who ride: Most are relatively young. I rarely see bikers who are old enough, as I am, to shame 20-somethings into not punching them. It’s “Logan’s Run” out there, and it’s a vast discrimination against anyone who is not a man in the physical prime of his life. This is a tragedy because New York City is ideal for short hops on bikes by people of all genders and ages, including children; it’s a flat and high-density city. Yet since 2014, the number of bike riders has fundamentally stalled; nobody new is showing up to the party, because the word is out that it’s not a party, it’s a death race.

A final word, if I may, for Mayor de Blasio and his central role in not doing the one big thing that is within his power to save the planet. You will not find a mayor who is more devoted to talking about the urgent need to fight global warming. He publicly celebrated the courage of Greta Thunberg when the 16-year-old environmentalist arrived in New York on a sailboat earlier this month, and he has piously warned that humanity has only 10 years left to save the planet. He has made some helpful changes, like announcing new guidelines on pollution levels for buildings. But these are the easy things. Getting cars and their lethal exhaust off the streets is the most important thing he could do and also one of the most difficult — because of a vocal minority of drivers with outsized clout. They are like the NRA, except their weapons weigh 4,000 pounds and are turning the planet into cinders (and there is no constitutional right to store your car for free on public streets).

The slightly good news is that de Blasio has finally ended his much-derided run for the Democratic presidential nomination, so we can hope he wakes up. It is unfathomable that during a climate emergency in which a key task is to reduce our use of cars, the allegedly progressive leader of America’s largest city has done so little to turn bike riding into an activity that’s not life-threatening.

Source: https://theintercept.com/2019/09/22/new-york-city-cars-bicycles-de-blasio/

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Uber, lyft and other taxis

Lyft Is Another Step Closer to Driverless Ridesharing

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Ridesharing company Lyft (NASDAQ: LYFT) inched a little bit closer toward self-driving ridesharing last week when it said in a blog post that it’s adding Chrysler Pacifica hybrids to its autonomous vehicle (AV) testing fleet and opening a new self-driving vehicle test facility.

The new facility, located in East Palo Alto, California, will allow the company to increase the number of AV tests it can run. It will also let the company test how the systems do with different road configurations, including intersections, merging lanes, traffic lights, and similar challenges. The company said in the post that the new facility will let Lyft “further accelerate the speed of innovation.”

Lyft says that it’s driving four times more autonomous miles per quarter than it was just six months ago and has about 400 employees worldwide working on self-driving tech. That figure is likely to expand, considering that Lyft has more than 40 autonomous vehicle job openings listed on its website.

In addition to the new facility, Lyft said that it’s adding Pacifica minivans to its AV fleet, which is the same vehicle that Waymo, Alphabet’s self-driving car company, uses for its public self-driving ridesharing project and AV tests. Lyft said that, “The minivan’s size and functionality provide our team with significant flexibility to experiment with the self-driving rideshare experience.”

Why does all this matter for Lyft’s autonomous-vehicle future? Because to have a successful, public self-driving ridesharing fleet in the coming years, Lyft needs to lay the groundwork right now.

Isn’t Lyft already doing AV testing?

Lyft is, of course, already working on AV testing. The company’s original self-driving test facility has been up and running since early 2018. The company also started a partnership with Waymo earlier this year to test autonomous ridesharing. Additionally, Lyft also works with Aptiv, an AV tech company, and together they’ve created “the largest publicly available commercial self-driving program in the country” and have completed more than 75,000 rides through the partnership.

But the recent announcements by Lyft show that the company is taking its AV focus a bit further. The Pacifica minivans have been used by Waymo’s AV ridesharing program in Phoenix for more than a year now, making them a proven choice for shuttling around ride-hailing passengers. Lyft may not be ready to launch a wide-scale autonomous ridesharing service just yet, but testing out these vehicles likely means that it’s moving past earlier stages of AV testing and is now looking at how its next-generation self-driving tech can handle new vehicles.

Why this matters for Lyft

Lyft and other ride-hailing companies, including Uber, are keeping a close eye on self-driving developments and testing out the technologies themselves because it could eventually become an integral part of their business model. Research from Intel predicts that the AV ridesharing market could be worth $3.7 trillion by 2050.

Additionally, as regulations surrounding ridesharing drivers continue to increase, Lyft is likely looking to AVs to eventually replace some human drivers. Just a few months ago, the state of California introduced a bill that could pave the way for independent contractors, including Lyft’s drivers, to be reclassified as employees. If a version of the bill becomes law and other states follow California’s lead, it could significantly increase operating costs for Lyft. That could be bad news for the company, which is unprofitable right now and hoping to be in the black just two years from now.

While Lyft’s announcements may not seem all that significant right now, investors should know that these baby steps moving the company closer to AV ridesharing could have huge results in the coming years. For now, investors should be pleased that Lyft is beefing up its own AV testing. Each move the company makes now means that it’ll be much more ready for a self-driving ridesharing future.

Source www.nasdaq.com

By Chris Neiger

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Uber fined $650 million by New Jersey over driver classification

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New Jersey is the latest state to say Uber’s drivers should be classified as employees rather than independent contractors. The state’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development said that because of this misclassification, the ride-hailing company owes it roughly $650 million in unemployment taxes and disability insurance, according to Bloomberg Law.

The Department of Labor reportedly has been trying to get unpaid employment taxes from Uber going back as far as 2015, according to documents obtained by Bloomberg Law. It said the company owed the state $523 million in overdue taxes along with another $119 million in interest and penalties for the last four years. Uber disputes these findings.

“We are challenging this preliminary but incorrect determination,” an Uber spokesman said in an email. “Because drivers are independent contractors in New Jersey and elsewhere.”

Driver classification is an issue that government regulators have been taking a closer look at over the past year. California passed a law in September that could require Uber and other on-demand companies to reclassify their drivers as employees instead of independent contractors. The law is set to go into effect Jan. 1. New York, Oregon and Washington state have considered similar legislation.

Uber, Lyft and several other tech companies have vowed to fight the California law, collectively putting more than $90 million behind a ballot initiative that’ll take the issue to voters next November. Many drivers have said this move is a slap in the face as they struggle to earn a living wage.

Uber’s and Lyft’s business models depend on bringing aboard hundreds of thousands of independent contractors, whose labor is typically cheaper than that of employees. That’s because Uber and Lyft drivers supply and maintain their own cars and also pay for their own health care and benefits, such as sick days or overtime pay.New Jersey is the latest state to say Uber’s drivers should be classified as employees rather than independent contractors. The state’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development said that because of this misclassification, the ride-hailing company owes it roughly $650 million in unemployment taxes and disability insurance, according to Bloomberg Law.

The Department of Labor reportedly has been trying to get unpaid employment taxes from Uber going back as far as 2015, according to documents obtained by Bloomberg Law. It said the company owed the state $523 million in overdue taxes along with another $119 million in interest and penalties for the last four years. Uber disputes these findings.

“We are challenging this preliminary but incorrect determination,” an Uber spokesman said in an email. “Because drivers are independent contractors in New Jersey and elsewhere.”

Driver classification is an issue that government regulators have been taking a closer look at over the past year. California passed a law in September that could require Uber and other on-demand companies to reclassify their drivers as employees instead of independent contractors. The law is set to go into effect Jan. 1. New York, Oregon and Washington state have considered similar legislation.

Uber, Lyft and several other tech companies have vowed to fight the California law, collectively putting more than $90 million behind a ballot initiative that’ll take the issue to voters next November. Many drivers have said this move is a slap in the face as they struggle to earn a living wage.

Uber’s and Lyft’s business models depend on bringing aboard hundreds of thousands of independent contractors, whose labor is typically cheaper than that of employees. That’s because Uber and Lyft drivers supply and maintain their own cars and also pay for their own health care and benefits, such as sick days or overtime pay.

 

“New Jersey is sending a message that the state’s labor laws aren’t dictated by corporations,” Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, said in a statement. “It’s a stinging rebuke of the architects of the gig economy, and we hope it permeates across other sectors.”

Even if Uber’s drivers were determined to be employees rather than independent contractors, Uber said the $650 million New Jersey tax fine would be too high — particularly if it’s based on what the company has earned in the state. Uber didn’t disclose the revenue it generated in New Jersey over the past four years, but its combined revenue for all the markets where it operated in 2018 was $11.3 billion.

 

 

 

Source www.cnet.com

By Dara Kerr

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Adams Clinical removes hurdle to clinical trial participation

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How Adams Clinical increased retention and streamlined operations by switching to Uber.

One of the hardest parts of conducting a clinical trial is identifying willing participants. Once a participant is identified, strict qualifications and an often-lengthy time commitment limits who can participate, and a lack of access to transportation can make it difficult for participants to commit to and complete the study. To help improve recruitment and retention rates, Adams Clinical offered taxi rides to their participants. However, this solution became a burden on operational efficiency since taxis were only accessible to participants who lived close by and required the staff to pay at the end of each ride.

Finding the perfect transportation solution with Uber Health

To expand their transportation offering, Adams Clinical became an early beta partner with Uber in 2016. The team started using Uber’s web dashboard to arrange and pay for rides for participants with just a few clicks. Over the three years of this partnership, the switch to Uber Health simplified operational management, while reducing time spent on recruitment with increased retention rates. The easy-to-use Uber Health dashboard tracked all the rides and processed payments from one centralized interface, allowing the staff to arrange rides without the hassle of paying at the end of each trip. This flexibility, plus the extensive reach of Uber driver-partners in the Boston area, provided Adams Clinical with the transportation solution needed to successfully manage their participants in need of rides—which removed the headache from recruiting and retaining their study participants.

The result: Improved retention rates, simplified financial records, and an overall lift in team morale

By teaming with Uber Health, Adams Clinical enjoys a number of key benefits including:

• Expanded Recruitment—Using Uber Health cut down the length of enrollment by providing a larger pool to recruit from, resulting in a 5 to 10 percent reduction in recruitment time over the last two years. 

• Centralized Billing—All rides are charged to one company credit card, which is then processed at the end of each month to streamline the amount of administrative effort required.

• Reliable Service—Each ride is tracked in the dashboard so the team knows when the participant will be arriving to help keep the rest of the study on schedule.

• Improved Retention—In the first two years of the partnership with Uber, Adams Clinical estimated up to 20 percent fewer people dropped out of a trial when transportation was arranged to and from the clinic.

• Financial Accountability—Details for each ride are available in the dashboard, and can be downloaded to a spreadsheet, offering convenient management with trial-specific reporting per participant.

• Easy to Use—Using Uber Health has been easy for both staff and participants, even among populations without smartphones or passengers new to Uber.

 

by Kendall Brown

Source uber.com

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