London's short-sighted Uber ban

The Uber ban is bad news.

I know more than one person with a disability or chronic illness who relies on Uber – to see friends, to get to work, to get to medical appointments. Those people are literally only able to get around using Uber. They lose a lifeline if Uber is gone, as do thousands of drivers.

Uber also saves lives. Research by Dills and Mulholland finds that the rate of vehicle accidents, assaults and public order offences drops considerably when Uber enters a city.

Transport for London could have demanded reforms if it wanted to. Instead, it gave Uber one minute’s notice of the decision before going public with it. Other companies have tried to bring innovation to London’s taxi market and been brought to their knees by TfL’s vindictiveness.

To some extent I think their flouting of the rules has been a good thing. I was surprised that the LTDA lost a case against them alleging that Uber uses the driver’s mobile phone as a taximeter (which it clearly does!) – but it’s totally changed the shape of the market, and I believe for the better.

I’ve seen plenty of people enjoy watching Uber squirm. I look forward to hearing what they’re proposing should fill the gap – but given that nothing similar existed before Uber, it’s not clear that anything will.

TfL hasn’t given out much information on the decision, but they mention:

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