Ride-hailing drivers ticketed for blocking traffic

Grand Rapids police say cars stopped in traffic lanes can cause crashes

Grand Rapids, The B.O.B., Monroe Avenue, no parking
A sign along Monroe Avenue outside The B.O.B. tells drivers there is no parking allowed. (Dec. 19, 2017)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids police are cracking down on a growing issue involving drivers from ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft.

More than a dozen drivers received $118 citations for blocking traffic while waiting outside of a bar to pick people up. Capt. Scott Rifenberg of the Grand Rapids Police Department explained that’s because those drivers were blocking a traffic lane, which is against a city ordinance.

Rifenberg told 24 Hour News 8 that in November, GRPD didn’t write any tickets for drivers blocking traffic after 6 p.m. In December, officers wrote 14 tickets in 11 days. Twelve of those tickets were issued for violations on Monroe Avenue in front of The B.O.B., a popular downtown venue.

“We appreciate the fact that people are using the Ubers and the Lyfts and the general taxi cabs or just getting a ride from a friend (rather than driving drunk), but really we need to worry about the walking public and the operating public operating their vehicles,” Rifenberg told 24 Hour News 8.

Rifenberg, the GRPD Central Service Area commander, said riders visiting The B.O.B. or neighboring venue 20 Monroe Live should asked to be dropped off and picked up along Ottawa Avenue, which runs parallel to Monroe Avenue. If there are already cars in that space, people make have to walk a little farther.

Map: Where you should ask Uber and Lyft drivers to drop you off and pick you up if visiting The B.O.B. or 20 Monroe Live in downtown Grand Rapids.

“You got to find a clear spot and that may be down the block,” Rifenberg said.

He has seen cars stopped in traffic cause rear-end crashes or pedestrians to be struck.

He said the problem of blocking traffic increases in the winter.

Barbara Singleton, the city’s parking meter operation supervisor, said that loading zones are strategically placed around the city. Some businesses have also requested adding more.

“That’s how most of them get installed,” Singleton explained. “A business may need a loading zone installed there, but it’s for the good of the block, not just for that business.”

In a statement to 24 Hour News 8 Tuesday, Uber said its drivers “must abide by all local transportation laws.” The company added drivers are responsible for paying tickets if they violate a traffic law.

Singleton and Rifenberg said that the city and police are in ongoing talks about how to make things easier for drivers and riders alike. Singleton said the Mobile GR & Parking Services department doesn’t want to take away on-street parking to add more drop-off areas.

The department is accepting suggestions from the public on the matter. Contact for the department is listed on its website.