Transport for London (TfL) has announced it will not renew Uber’s operating license in the city, due for renewal on 30th of September 2017.
It says its decision, was made due to Uber’s ‘lack of corporate responsibility.’ This includes its approach to serious criminal offenses.
Uber now has 21 days to appeal, during which time it will be able to continue to operate. The cab firm says it plans to immediately challenge the ruling by London’s transport authority in the courts.
Former soldier James Wharton, whose recent book Something For The Weekend looks at his journey into the ‘party and play’ world of drugs, says this decision is going to ‘rock the [city’s] chemsex culture’
He tells Gay Star News: ‘Part of the reason chemsex culture has boomed in London over the last few years is the ease in which you can discreetly move from party to party (in all sorts of states), or call in a number of people to an address where a party is beginning.’
‘When the sun goes down, gay and bi-sexual men who enjoy chemsex culture depend on Uber. People high on G don’t want to be on the night bus.’
In his book, he recounts many times that Uber was a part of ordering drugs and going from back to back parties.
Drugs ordered and delivered via app
Wharton wasn’t the only one to make the comment as the furor on social media about the decision spread.
PrEP campaigner Greg Owen also made similar reflections. He told GSN that, ‘Uber is kind of integral to the London chemsex scene.’
Owen says that Uber drivers are unknowingly used for collecting and running drugs. When working as an escort, Owen says he included an Uber ordered to him as part of his terms.
The GPS geo-record of his movements Uber provides also became a useful tool for Owen as his awareness of sexual assaults on the scene grew.
Last week GSN revealed sexual assault in chemsex environments has doubled in the last three years in the city.
‘It was a pretty good record keeper of where the hell I’d been. That undoubtedly would prove useful if I had been sexually assaulted or attacked’
The PrEP campaigner also highlights another part of Uber’s appeal to those who are part of the chemsex scene. As well as those who have chemsex, the Uber decision may also affect those who supply drugs to people:
‘One of my dealer friends was going to join Uber as a driver as a cover story. As a reason for why he was constantly in and out of his flat, driving all over London.’
Overall, Owen believes the taxi firm’s cheap nature simply fits, ‘in a society where we don’t carry cash and live with our faces glued to our iPhones.’
Apps are driving chemsex scene
Writing for GSN’s chemsex series, David Stuart from 56 Dean Street says ‘no population in history, has had hardcore drugs delivered to them in such a fast and universal manner.’
He believes it’s the combination of easy availability of chems on apps as well as the LGBTI communities ‘relationship to HIV stigma’ and ‘disproportionate levels of mental health issues’ that are involved in the growth of the chemsex scene.
Last week’s Gay Star News survey shows apps are one of the main ways gay and bi men connect to have chemsex.
Four in five (82%) say they use apps to plan to get high and horny, buying drugs and finding parties.
We also know that nearly two-thirds have their own drug dealers, while 16% are using apps to seek out dealers. Those that don’t have their own dealer, rely on a partner (46%). And, alarmingly, 7% swap drugs for sex.
Former chemsex addict Liam McClelland takes a slightly wider view on the Uber ban’s effect on chemsex:
‘Uber makes it easier if you’re paying for someone’s travel, so quite a few did use it. But we adapt and change, there are plenty of other minicab services out there’
Wharton agrees: ‘Chemsex culture isn’t going to end if Uber leaves the capital. But it will change the ways drugs and people move around as they pursue chemsex.’
GSN has approached Uber to ask if they have any advice to their drivers if they think criminal activity is happening in their cars.
This article is part of the Gay Star News Chemsex Series. Read more stories, support and see the videos on our chemsex section.