Chicago cabdrivers are the Rodney Dangerfields of the road. They get no respect.
Cabbies have waited a decade for a fare increase. Ride-hailing companies are siphoning their business and escaping the rigid city regulation imposed on the taxi industry. And cab riders file complaints against them — and sometimes even physically abuse them.
On Thursday, City Hall launched an unprecedented campaign aimed at preventing cabdriver abuse.
The campaign was triggered by an alleged battery and theft against a veteran cabdriver identified by City Hall as Henry Rone; that incident led to criminal charges.
When a female passenger tried to stiff Rone and walk away without paying for a cab ride, Rone allegedly approached the woman and got slapped in the face. His eyeglasses fell to the ground and broke during the confrontation.
Rone could not be reached for comment.
A news release quoted the assaulted driver as saying he works 12 hours a day, six days a week to eke out a living and doesn’t deserve the abuse.
“Every day, you step out of your house to drive and you worry a little and think, ‘What might happen today?’ ” Rone was quoted as saying.
“Riders should know there is a consequence for doing something to the driver. It will give us more respect.”
The city’s campaign will urge cab riders to “Be Polite, Not Violent. Respect your Taxi Driver!” It will also remind those who dare to raise their fists or slap a cabbie’s face that battery against an on-duty taxicab driver is a Class 3 felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
The city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection has produced six informational graphics carrying the message and designed to be shared on its social media sites, websites and in e-newsletters.
An educational video also has been produced to be shared on multi-media sites. Other city departments, aldermanic offices and community partners are being asked to spread the same word.
“This campaign is intended to remind passengers that Chicago’s public chauffeurs deserve respect and there is no reason for violence,” Business Affairs and Consumer Protection Commissioner Maria Guerra Lapacek was quoted as saying in the press release.
“If an issue arises, passengers should report it . . . by calling 311 and not by taking the law into their own hands.”
Although Rone was the victim of an alleged assault, he has also received his share of compliments from grateful riders.
According to the city, he even got a letter of appreciation from a passenger who accidentally left a wallet in Rone’s cab and was thrilled when it was returned the same day.
“I respect his honesty and integrity,” the city quoted the passenger as saying in the letter.