WATCH ABOVE: After being asked by city council to halt its services, Uber is now offering free rides. Jessica Kent reports.
EDMONTON — Uber Edmonton is once again in operation, offering free rides throughout the city, and at least one city councillor is not pleased with it.
“I was very disappointed,” said Ward 5 Councillor Michael Oshry. “Council made it pretty clear that we asked them to stop operating in order to give us some time to revisit the bylaw.”
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After much opposition to the ride-sharing service by the taxi industry, city council passed a motion last Tuesday that put the brakes on Uber’s operations in Edmonton. The city asked Uber to temporarily suspend its operations in Edmonton until council decides to change current regulations, or Uber complies with the vehicle-for-hire bylaw.
“For us it’s more of a safety issue,” said Oshry. “One of the big concerns for me is that the drivers are not insured.”
“I’m not against competition. I’m not against them operating … I think that’s actually good. Our taxi industry is not great and some changes there are definitely needed, but we do have to make sure that they follow the rules that are in place.”
READ MORE: Edmonton cabbies urge city to crack down on Uber
Following the decision by city council, Uber launched an online petition on Wednesday. Uber said the petition was an attempt to show city council that its services are wanted by Edmontonians.
Then on Friday, Uber users received an email saying all rides on the platform would be free in Edmonton.
“We all agree that creating new ride-sharing regulations is in the best interest of helping ensure transportation alternatives in Edmonton,” said Uber spokesperson Xavier Van Chau. “As we work with council to help make that a reality, and as a good faith measure in Edmonton, all rides on the platform will be free.”
Oshry says as long as Uber drivers aren’t accepting payment they’re not breaking city bylaws. However, riders are warned to use the service at their own risk.
“If they’re not charging they don’t compete with our bylaws,” Oshry explained. “If they’re out driving now and they’re not charging and people are happy to take the risk on the insurance and people are happy to take a ride, we shouldn’t be in a hurry to change the bylaw.”
If Uber begins charging users Oshry says the city will have no choice but to file an injunction against the company.
Uber launched in Edmonton in December. The ride-sharing service uses an app to match drivers with passengers. It operates as an alternative to taking a cab, public transit or driving yourself. The San Francisco-based company operates in more than 260 cities around the world, including Toronto and Ottawa.