Uber has had its London licence revoked. Here, Lucy Mangan addresses how dangerous it is for women to get around the city.
It’s Christmas party season. You may have your glad rags sorted, spare tights and Compeeds in your bag, but have you factored in your ride home? Or rather the sudden disappearance of it. The announcement that Uber has had its London licence revoked – until mid-December at least –has set many of us to work feverishly recomputing our travel arrangements.
In cities across the country, we are increasingly Uber (and other taxi services of that nature that will spring up now the big fella has had his wings clipped) dependent. Women, especially, have come to rely on a form of transport that – put bluntly – provides a reasonable amount of safety at an affordable price.
Sure, black cabs are considered to be the safest way of getting about. I mean, not safe-safe as cases like John Worboys’ prove (he was known as “the black cab rapist” with over 100 suspected victims) – but they are prohibitively expensive and it is a nerve- wracking financial commitment hopping in one. As much as we all enjoy staying relatively safe, real life and real lack of money often circumscribe our options.
Of course, Uber isn’t perfect. Its licence has been suspended for, among other things, a slipshod approach to checking drivers’ backgrounds and tracking them on jobs – hence the numerous headlines, personal anecdotes, friends’ horror stories and incidents recounted on social media we all have tucked away in the back of our minds as we climb into any car with a stranger, however high their star-rating.
It is an absurdity and an insult, of course, that we still meticulously have to make all manner of plans and compromises because we do not – and, the way things are, should not – feel safe on the streets alone. And because the Tube, if you have access to it, is a hellscape after chucking-out time and a desolate space if you’re travelling alone after dark. And because the night bus is even worse. If anyone reading has ever managed to wait at an isolated stop, make her journey and arrive at her front door without having been hassled by anyone with drunken, malicious or suggestive designs on her person, please do get in touch.
It’s infuriating to have to pay both an emotional and an actual financial tax (in fares) to be a woman exercising a right to have a social life in the year of our Lord – who I think particularly wants us to have a good time at his birthday – 20-pigging-19. The Googling, Citymapping and WhatsApping as soon as you know the time, place and venue (let it not be down a warren of little alleyways, or in a business park that’s deserted after 7pm) is exhausting.
But you either manage your risk or find yourself living under a curfew, a prisoner in your own home after dark. To the latter, we say, “Screw that”, and we make our moves – literally – as best we and our budgets can. So stay safe, but stay angry too. And maybe the New Year will bring the change we need – and the freedom we deserve.