When I opened my inbox a few days ago I saw an email requesting a petition in favour of carsharing. I was about to delete it thinking it was spam until I saw that it was coming from SideCar. In the email SideCar reached out to its community, explaining that carsharing services in the Bay Area including themselves, Lyft, and Uber are currently experiencing friction against carsharing. I’m an avid SideCar user and have used it pretty faithfully during my travels to San Francisco, I hope my experience with SideCar can shed some light about the value it has brought to me during my travels to the Bay Area.
Reading that email from SideCar was nothing short of disappointing, I have no doubts that losing this service would take away an everyday convenience in my life.
You see I’ve been sharing the majority of my time between San Francisco and Waterloo. Whenever I’m in SF, I opt for carsharing whenever possible to get around. Drivers actually talk
to you when you get into a SideCar, they tell you about their experience of the city, they tell you about their day job, or about the neighbourhood that you’re heading to. Taxi drivers talk on their phones near
you when you’re in their car. One of the first questions asked when getting into a taxi is flat out and blunt: “are you paying by credit or cash? If you’ve gotten in and you say “credit” (like I do) more often then not, you may be asked to get out. The convenience of SideCar to accept credit is one of the major selling points of SideCar in addition to good company and a track-able experience from the moment you opt to call a SideCar to you. More importantly because of the relationship built, you actually feel
that your donation is contributing more than just a monetary value to someone else- it's a whole new way to get around.
From the time you set your pick up and drop off coordinates, you can expect a text alert and a personal call from your SideCar driver to let you know his/her eta, acknowledging that they’ve received your inquiry. You get in, you go where you want to go, you meet someone new who may know a thing or two about the city that you didn’t, you get out, you make a donation & rate the driver and driving experience. It is simply convenient. My travelling lifestyle within the city has been exceptionally memorable because of my experiences with SideCar. I’ve used the service often enough to get many repeat drivers and its actually nice to catch up on a first name basis with them. I learn a little about them, their lives, why they are driving SideCar, and have actually shared a few “remember when we were driving to….” stories. This just doesn’t happen with a taxi driver.
Aside from all of the convenience that SideCar provides, the community is fun and very real. One of my most memorable experiences with SideCar was the unbelievable commitment a driver has gone through to ensure that I get from one of end of the city to the other during peak traffic hours and under time sensitive circumstances. We’ve often found ourselves paired together for carsharing and have built a great friendship. The driver is reliable, smart with traffic and getting around the city, we’ve even done errands together on the weekend! When I call a SideCar and I get matched to this driver, I breath relief and actually look forward to the drive. There are few experiences that can bring about the same intuition. Yes, pragmatically SideCar has provided a solution to help drivers and passengers with a way of getting around the city, but more importantly, they’ve built a brand and community of people. The later grows in numbers and strength with the care and response from the community and is fundamentally irreplaceable.
During recent events, SideCar took all of its weekend (November 9-11, 2012) proceeds (80% of your donation goes to the driver, 20% goes to SideCar) from both San Francisco and Seattle and donated it to the efforts in helping those affected by Hurricane Sandy via the American Red Cross. I read that update while in a SideCar going from A to B; I was incentivized to donate, to be a part of a greater cause. Many of my friends use SideCar, this became a topic of conversation when we met up, and by extension the effort became a word of mouth spread in and of itself. The community’s pay it forward approach generated more community both in SF and NYC, a win on all fronts with the sincere intention right from the beginning.
Communities with this type of organic growth are the ones that everyone wants to be a part of, they are memorable, fun, and valuable. Who doesn’t want to be apart of that? I asked myself, “if SideCar were to disappear tomorrow, would I notice and miss it”, without a doubt, I said yes and that’s how I quickly validated the value and impact it had on my day to day life. So, thanks SideCar for the community that we’ve all created and more importantly, thanks for reaching out and voicing your position on this one, looking at the number of signatures on this petition
, it looks like a few of you feel the same way I do! Let’s keep ensure that carsharing is here to stay because this level of value on all accounts is sustainable.