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8 min read

    8 min read

    In cities around the United States, protests have continued since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. How have the protests and curfews affected drivers, couriers – and earnings? If you’re out driving, senior RSG contributor Paula Gibbins breaks down what you need to know to stay safe.

    Curfews were put in place in several cities around the U.S. due to demonstrations and protests after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, who was killed by a cop during his arrest.

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    The curfews and protests (and subsequent downtown shut downs, in many cases) prompted concern from drivers and delivery couriers, who were worried about potentially being detained or even arrested for delivering people or food.

    As protests continue around the US, here’s what drivers should know going forward.

    Summary:

    • Uber, Lyft and other food delivery companies are mainly relying on city governments for direction on shutting down operations
    • Many drivers have chosen not to drive during the protests
    • For those who are driving, earnings appear to be up
    • It’s crucial you know where road closures and other city damage is so you can stay safe

    Cities Under Curfew

    Here is what the original curfew for St. Paul looked like (Minneapolis was similar):

    That is a lot of things to keep in mind and try to figure out for yourself. Especially if you’re a nighttime driver who is used to being able to go where you need/want to without question.

    Other cities also announced similar curfews, including Seattle (6 pm until 5 am) and Washington, D.C., which instituted curfews at 7 pm and again later in the week at 11 pm. Currently, no city is under curfew, and protests recently have been largely peaceful.

    Uber, Lyft and Courier Policies

    For Uber and Lyft, the driver application (and I’m assuming the passenger application) did not allow you to go online during those times, according to a driver on a local Lyft Facebook group.

    It would have been potentially very dangerous to be caught out in your vehicle during curfew, so I’m glad to hear that the apps would not allow you to go online.

    According to an Uber spokesperson, Uber suspended operations in cities that requested suspension of service, like Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco and parts of Minneapolis.

    In a statement, Uber said, “We’re also using the Uber app to educate riders and drivers about city curfews and remind them Uber should be used for emergency purposes only during this time.”

    It’s interesting that Uber said it suspended operations in Los Angeles during the curfew, however, as Harry was still able to request a ride as a passenger on June 2, at 7 pm (an hour after curfew began in LA):

    Other cities specifically requested Uber remain in operation to serve essential workers without other means of transportation, which is why even if your city had a curfew, you still may have been able to sign on and drive.

    According to The Verge, a Lyft spokesperson said they are following the directions of local governments, but did not provide a number of cities or offer details about specific cities.

    However—and this is pretty scary—there were some delivery apps that allowed orders to go through and therefore drivers to be out and about during curfew. There are likely some drivers who would not have heard about the curfew and tried driving like usual.

    According to this BuzzFeed article, “An Uber Eats spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that it will not process orders after curfews begin in Minneapolis, San Francisco, and Oakland, at the request of city officials. But the service will continue to process orders in cities like New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC, where police have used tear gas, rubber bullets, and force on protesters in the past few days.”

    In addition, DoorDash and Postmates declined to tell Buzzfeed whether they would process orders in cities with curfews. Seamless and Grubhub stated they were communicating with government officials, but did not name specific cities where they suspended ordering after curfews.

    What Drivers Are Saying About the Protests and Curfews

    While not much is clear about all of this, it is clear that the only people allowed out during a curfew are emergency personnel, people going to or coming home from their jobs, or journalists.

    Being a rideshare driver does not count as coming home or going to your job, so it’s hard to guess if you’re considered essential during something as serious as a mandated curfew.

    However, if Uber and Lyft are operating and cities have stated they want rideshare to remain open for essential services, it can be difficult to tell whether or not you should drive.

    On Reddit, it seems there was debate there, as well.

    In these Reddit comments, it looked like many were confused. Are rideshare drivers essential if they are transporting essential workers? In Chicago and San Francisco, it didn’t appear to matter as both apps were largely shut down.

    We heard from a few drivers in different cities around the country, and for the most part, drivers are either avoiding protest areas or choosing not to drive at all.

    Reader Chuck in Tampa, FL said that both the curfews and protests haven’t been too bad, but after part of Tampa Bay was damaged by fires set by rioters, he’s been avoiding that area.

    Another reader, Thomas in Philadelphia, drove during the protests but said people taking Uber and Lyft were largely understanding of any delays or issues. It was interesting to note that Thomas’ passengers all wore masks, were headed to social events around the city (not to protests) and mostly did not want to talk about the protests.

    Philadelphia has been the site of some pretty serious protests, but Thomas noted the streets surrounding the protests were all closed off so drivers couldn’t even get close if they wanted. Luckily, passengers all seemed to understand and were not annoyed they couldn’t get into the city (where the protests were occurring).

    At the same time, Thomas stated on the Facebook page that with Uber, Lyft and Uber Eats, he was able to clear $2,900 in one week. Part of that success he attributed to surges in Philadelphia for Uber/Lyft passengers (due to the protests and fewer drivers on the road) and tips from Uber Eats customers.

    Overall, most of the drivers on the RSG Facebook page either said they weren’t driving or things were business as usual, with restrictions on certain streets but otherwise no other trouble (like being pulled over) for being out after curfew.

    Should You Drive During Protests or Curfews?

    It’s your choice if you want to drive during protests. One thing to keep in mind is that you may end up caught in a situation that could be potentially dangerous.

    Another thing to keep in mind is possible road closures due to the protesting and demonstrations. Some of the road closures could be due to people blocking the roads during the protests, or closures implemented in order to enforce the curfew.

    For example, in Minneapolis, there were several major road closures that drivers would have to keep an eye out for. Many of the road closures would fully prevent someone from going from Minneapolis to St. Paul and the other way around.

    The roads in red are the ones that were closed and they are the majority of the main interstates and highways that run between and throughout the Twin Cities.

    Knowing these closures—or any in your city—is essential for all rideshare drivers. You need to know where you’re able to go and where you simply cannot go.

    If you do want to drive, either for Uber or Lyft or for a delivery company, keep in mind how these road closures could affect your ability to get to a restaurant, get out, and get to your destination. If it adds on an extra 20 minutes, it’s probably not worth it – but that’s up to you!

    Advice for Drivers

    • Don’t talk about the protests with passengers — I know it’s the hot topic and everyone will be talking about it, but it’s very easy to say something insensitive or against what your passengers may be thinking and feeling. It’s probably best to steer clear of it if at all possible.
    • Learn about road closures — if there are road closures either due to protestors blocking the road or due to other reasons, you need to know where they are and how to avoid them.
    • If you feel unsafe, just go offline — there’s no reason for you to put yourself into danger just to make a little money. Your life is worth more than that. If you feel like you’re in danger, go offline and go home. Try to avoid driving at night when the situation often gets ramped up.
    • Adhere to the curfew — if there’s a curfew in place, do you really want to be arguing your case for why you are out and about during it? Stay home and stay safe.
    • Stay safe. Be safe.

    Readers, did you drive or deliver in your city during protests or curfews? If so, how did it go?

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    -Paula @ RSG

    Paula Gibbins

    Paula Gibbins

    Paula Gibbins, a graduate of Augustana University, Sioux Falls, is a part-time rideshare driver and a full-time proofreader. She is based in Minneapolis/St. Paul. In her free time, Paula enjoys reading, playing board games and participating in trivia nights.