Prague man says Bolt driver threatened violence, made homophobic slurs during Pride week

The incident took place earlier this month after an Australian man and his partner ordered a ride via the app

Elizabeth Zahradnicek-Haas

Written by Elizabeth Zahradnicek-Haas Published on 18.08.2020 11:27:53 (updated on 18.08.2020) Reading time: 3 minutes

A Prague man is calling on Bolt to tighten up screening measures for drivers as well as offer diversity training after he and another male passenger allege that they were the targets of anti-gay comments and threats of violence while taking the car service earlier this month.

The man told that he and his partner ordered a Bolt from Břevnov on the evening of August 8. About a minute into the ride, the situation took an uncomfortable turn as the driver used a homophobic slur to refer to both men while on a phone call with a third party.

According to the man, the driver said, “‘I’ve just picked up two faggots. I’m going to vomit.'” When his companion, a Russian-speaking Moldavian national confronted the man he reportedly said: “I hate faggots. If you are not faggots you can stay in the car.”

The man says the driver then locked the doors and warned the men that if they opened them he’d break their arms.

The men managed to unlock the doors and get out of the vehicle — which did not match the description of the car on the account — after which the driver sped off.

The man reported the incident to Bolt shortly thereafter. He also took to Facebook to warn others in Prague’s LGBTQ+ community about a homophobic and potentially dangerous driver accepting passengers in the Czech capital.

We reached out to a Bolt representative who called the driver’s actions “absolutely unacceptable” saying it was at odds with the company’s values and in violation of their terms and conditions for drivers.

“All drivers must pass a test which consists of several parts, including how to properly [interact] with the riders. We believe that the same standards must be applied to all passengers, no matter what their sexual orientation or country of origin is,” said Roman Sysel, regional manager for Bolt in Central and Eastern Europe.

When pressed to acknowledge if that testing involves criminal background checks, Sysel said:

“Every driver must have a valid taxi driver’s license, the validity of which must be, according to law, checked by Bolt at least once every 15 working days. The relevant office issuing the license does this screening, both for driving violations and criminal offenses.”

The man, an Australian native and Prague resident, says the company’s response isn’t enough.

“I’d like them to reassess their security measures when hiring. Have more training around diversity, inclusive language, and have up-to-date accounts with correct driver photos, license plates, and car information to ensure that these ‘fake accounts’ don’t continue to appear in the future,” he told us.

With regards to such Bolt users, Sysel said, “If we receive a first report that the driver arrived in a car that is not registered on the Bolt platform or if there is a different driver than [what’s shown] on the Bolt app, the driver profile is immediately blocked until he reaches out to us and we discuss this matter.”

Drivers who are reported twice for the same offense are terminated as part of the company’s “zero-tolerance” for breach of terms and conditions.

Sysel says that passengers who feel threatened by drivers or others in the vehicle should call the police.

The man says he isn’t the only gay customer to have faced discrimination and hateful attacks from similar app-based ride services in Prague and other European capitals. Several commenters on his post responded that they had found themselves in similar situations.

He is considering filing a police report.

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