A private hire driver working on the Bolt ride-sharing app in London has been beaten and robbed at knifepoint after arriving to pick up a job ordered from a stolen phone.
Muhammad was working in the Chingford area in London and was called for a job near the Chingford Sainsbury’s. Little did Muhammad know that the phone being used to book the job was stolen and the person he would meet at the pick up point would not be the person whose details were shown on his app.
When Muhammad arrived, the customer asked him urgently to drive around the corner as he said he had a friend waiting there whose leg was hurt and couldn’t walk all the way to the vehicle. Muhammad obliged.
He stopped where requested, which was next to two men. Immediately one of the men opened his car door and punched him hard in the face. The man then pulled out a knife and ordered Muhammad to hand over his car keys and get out the vehicle. Muhammad realised the situation he was in and made the decision to hand over the keys rather than risk his life.
As they drove away in his car, Muhammad made his way to the Sainsbury’s, bleeding from his mouth, and asked the security team there to call the police. The police arrived around 20 minutes later.
According to the United Private Hire Drivers Union (UPHD), the police investigation is still ongoing, and confirmed that Muhammad’s insurance will pay for the cost of his car – a Toyota Prius 2011. Muhammad is said to now be safe and recovering.
Muhammad agreed it was important to share his story with other drivers and with the press to draw attention to the issue of driver safety.
Muhammad also said: “Since this happened to me I have been scared to go back to work again, but I have to in order to support my family.
“I am not the only driver this has happened to. In February another driver called Gabriel Bringye, who was a member of our union, was stabbed by his passengers while on a job for Bolt. His assailants were using some sort of fake account.
“The fact the attackers in both my case and Gabriel’s were able to do this and book a job without revealing their identity exposed us to danger. I could well have ended up dead like Gabriel. Bolt must make its app safe for drivers now before another person is killed.
“The first thing Bolt should do is make sure no-one is able to book a trip on Bolt without a verified name and address, and Bolt must introduce photo requirements for customers in their app so drivers like me can tell if the person getting in my car is the right person.”
UPHD Vice Chair Nader Awaad said: “After the horrific stabbing of private hire driver Gabriel Bringye while on a job for Bolt in February, our union called on Bolt’s CEO Markus Villig to implement safety measures so this would never happen again. This recent attack on another driver Muhammad shows the necessity of the safety measures we have been calling for.
“Markus Villig’s failure to implement improved protections for drivers after Gabriel’s death nearly cost Muhammad his life. This is negligence and Bolt must take action now to ensure their drivers are safe. It is unacceptable if a passenger loses a phone someone else can order a job using their name to commit a crime. It’s Bolt’s responsibility to ensure that their account can be accessed by the account holder only.”
According to the UPHD, they have been campaigning for improved safety protections for drivers from all private hire operators for several months. They said they have seen many drivers across the country get abused and attacked by passengers over the last few years.
A spokesperson for the union said: “Of course, each driver can and should take safety measures and precautions to protect themselves. We recommend some basic precautions such as keeping your doors locked until you have fully identified the passenger, getting approved CCTV in your vehicle, etc. We will be running some training workshops for our members on this topic in the near future.
“However, the responsibility here does not rest with the individual driver alone. The operators who make billions from our hard work are also responsible for our safety.
“Since the murder of our union member Gabriel Bringye in February while on a job for Bolt, the UPHD team has been working hard to support his family and also to put pressure on Bolt to improve their safety protections. After this horrific attack on Muhammad, it is even more clear that Bolt has a serious problem with lack of safety for drivers.
“We have called on Bolt’s CEO Markus Villig to improve their safety measures on the Bolt app, but so far they have not listened. If another driver is hurt or killed, it will be Markus Villig’s negligence that is responsible.”
The first steps of the union’s campaign to get Bolt and other operators to improve safety measures are:
to launch a survey for drivers to let us know if you have experienced abuse so we can build up the evidence to make our case as strongly as possible with the operators and licensing authorities. You can fill that in here: https://airtable.com/shrR51rUcr7RgaHVQ
to set up a driver safety working group and hold a series of meetings to work out what measures need to be taken by operators to improve driver safety. Get in touch if you want to join this working group.
to launch a petition calling on Bolt to make improvements, which you should sign and share: https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/gabriels-life-matters-drivers-deserve-safety/
to get the media to cover this issue.
to hold several strikes to put pressure on Bolt.
The UPHD concluded: “We are now planning to step up this campaign to the next level. We plan to put maximum pressure on Bolt so that they will stop hiding, take some responsibility and improve their safety measures for drivers.”