Why are Uber Drivers Urinating in Cups and Disposable Bottles?

Jaspreet Singh Kalra
The Gotham Grind
Published in
3 min readOct 22, 2019
A BP gas station’s restroom on 10th Avenue and 36th Street is frequented by e-hail drivers but most continue to use bottles or cups to urinate in. Photo ©Jaspreet Kalra

Noah Forman, an Uber driver, urinates into his used coffee cups. Why? Because stopping to use the restroom could mean losing an hour’s worth of fares.

Forman works 8-to-10-hour shifts, but he only stops to use the restroom once. In the night, he looks for a “safe” spot, usually near a fire hydrant or a dark alley, and relieves himself in a used coffee cup or a disposable bottle.

Most Uber and other e-hail drivers in the city resort to using coffee cups or disposable bottles to urinate. All 15 of the drivers interviewed for this story said that they regularly used bottles to relieve themselves. They do so because stopping for a restroom break means losing fares and also bonuses for consecutive trips. With Uber’s new policy of locking out drivers in areas without enough “rider demand,” this problem could get even worse. Now drivers who stop for a break could be locked out if demand slows down.

Drivers log out of their apps if they stop to use the restroom because finding a parking spot and a restroom can take about an hour. If they keep the app on and do not accept trips, Uber could consider them “inactive” and not give them fares.

“If you see an Uber or yellow cab stop and pour out a little cup, they’re not pouring out their drink,” said Geo Rosario, who has been driving with Uber for 5 years.

On UberPeople.Net, an online message board for drivers, multiple threads in the New York City section are devoted to restroom problems. Many have advice on what bottles to use to urinate in, with Gatorade and Snapple appearing as favorites. While users mention some restroom spots around the city, most say bottles are a good option. One user posted a screen grab of an email from the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission, the regulator in charge of all for-hire cars, asking drivers to not dispose of “urine filled bottles” on the street

“The e-mail was a reminder to drivers to be respectful of public space,” Rebecca Harshbarger, the TLC press secretary, told The Gotham Grind.

According to Harshbarger, the TLC does not have any specific rules against drivers relieving themselves in their taxis. “But if a passenger is present, we could take action,” said Harshbarger.

In July 2018, a driver was banned by Uber after he relived himself in a bottle in the presence of a passenger.

“If I had to sign out to pee, I’d be out of a job,” said Benjamin Lau, an Uber driver. He said that most times he tries to hold back because it usually takes an hour to find a restroom.

Dr. Ojas Shah, a urologist at Columbia University, said that he has treated drivers with difficulty urinating. He said that the drivers were having a hard time relieving themselves because they had been holding back so often.

“Many drivers shy away from drinking water because it means they’ll have to stop,” said Dr. Shah. He noted that this can lead to dehydration and increases their risk of forming kidney stones.