Thousands of taxi drivers across Europe blocked roads and held demonstrations in protest against Uber, which recently expanded its car calling service to London, Paris, and Berlin.
According to the New York Times, London cabbies caused a massive traffic jam by parking their vehicles in the city’s center. The protesters reportedly stopped their cars in the middle of the street, leaving buses, cars, and trucks stranded behind them. The drivers then got out of their vehicles and handed out leaflets in protest. Police officers were said to be unsuccessful in getting traffic to move.
“In 5 to 10 years, the cab industry in London will be devalued,” Paul Hodge, who has been driving a London black cab for 32 years, told the New York Times. “Black cab drivers are the best in the world. We’re fed up of not being treated with respect.”
The protest happened in six Euopean cities. Aside from London, Paris, and Berlin, taxi drivers in Milan, Madrid, and Lisbon held similar protests. According to Bloomberg, more than 30,000 taxi and limo drivers participated in the demonstrations, blocking traffic in tourist centers and shopping districts.
Uber fought back against protesters. In Paris, where drivers protested by choking traffic in the city’s two main airports, the service offered customers a 50% discount. The company also offered the deal in Lyon, the other French city in which it operates.
Aside from fears that competition from Uber would weaken their business, cab drivers are also complaining about what they claim to be a lack of regulation over the company’s freelance chauffeurs.
“We have to have a license to own a cab, we have to have a driver’s license, a cab driver’s license,” Mark Haslam, a participant in the protest, told Bloomberg. “For some reason they seem to be outside the law.”
Uber’s entry into the European market seems destined to be a tough proposition. Earlier this year, Brussels made it illegal for Uber to operate in the city, citing the service’s lack of necessary permits. In France, the government imposed a 15-minute waiting period on the service before it can pick up customers. The rule was eventually reversed last February. At the time, taxi drivers in the country launched violent protests against Uber vehicles. There were reports of demonstrators hurling rocks and slashing tires.