News / Europe

European Cabbies Sow Traffic Chaos Battling Uber

Taxi drivers demonstrate along the Mall, central London, June 11, 2014.
Taxi drivers demonstrate along the Mall, central London, June 11, 2014.
Reuters
Taxi drivers sowed traffic chaos in Europe's top cities on Wednesday by mounting one of the biggest ever protests against Uber, a U.S. car service which allows people to summon rides at the touch of a button.

Drivers of hundreds of London's black taxis snarled traffic in the streets around Trafalgar Square, hooting their horns as they passed Downing Street, the home of Prime Minister David Cameron, and the Houses of Parliament.

In Paris, taxi drivers slowed traffic on major arteries into the city center during the morning commute. In Berlin hundreds choked the main road to the city's historic center while commuters juggled busses and trains, or simply walked, to get to work in Madrid and Barcelona.

San Francisco-based Uber Technologies Inc., valued last week at $18.2 billion just four years since its 2010 launch, has touched a raw nerve by bringing home the threat of technological advances to one of the world's most visible trades.

“This about an all-out assault on our profession, our livelihoods,” said Max Small, a driver of one of London's black taxis for 34 years. “These big companies are coming in, not playing by the rules.”

Taxi drivers across Europe level a variety of charges against Uber: that its applications break local taxi rules; that its drivers fail to comply with local insurance rules; and that it is therefore in breach of licensing and safety regulations.

Uber, backed by investors such as Goldman Sachs and Google, refute all those allegations, a spokeswoman said. Uber said it, its applications and its drivers comply with local regulations.

“What you are seeing today is an industry that has not faced competition for decades. Now finally we are seeing competition from companies such as Uber which is bringing choice to customers,” said Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, Uber Regional General Manager for Europe.

“Across a number of different countries the taxi industry is very similar — an industry which is highly regulated and arranged in a way that is not pro-consumer but just promotes protectionism.”

Uber

Uber has expanded rapidly since it was founded by two U.S. technology entrepreneurs, Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp, and now operates in 128 cities across 37 countries.

Uber Chief Executive Officer Kalanick last week announced $1.2 billion in new funding, valuing the company at $18.2 billion, one of the highest valuations ever for a Silicon Valley startup.

But it has faced a series of hurdles from the beaches of Miami to the piazzas of Rome.

Ordinances keep it out of cities such as Las Vegas and Miami while in Chicago, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., Uber and similar companies have faced lawsuits from taxi companies hoping to keep the new competition out.

In London, the European Union's biggest city by population, police helicopters monitored the traffic snarl around the seat of the British government as mopeds and cyclists tried to navigate the chaos and crowds of bemused tourists looked on.

Uber says its fares are cheaper than black taxis in London. Other taxi drivers allege Uber's technology is effectively a taximeter and thus contravenes a 1998 British law reserving the right to use a meter for licensed black taxis.

They say the city's transport regulator, Transport for London, is failing to enforce the rules. The regulator says its provisional view is that smart phone applications do not constitute a taximeter but has asked the High Court for a view.

After the disruptions, Uber hit back in Germany by emailing its clients offering a 50 percent discount on all shared rides for the duration of the day. In London the company offered new customers 20 pounds ($33.58) off their first journey.

In Spain, the Ministry of Public Works has warned that companies or individuals offering Uber-type services faced fines of up to 6,000 euros, while users could be fined up to 600 euros. The ministry has not specifically named Uber.

Neelie Kroes, the European Union commissioner in charge of digital and telecoms policy, said responding to companies like Uber with strikes was pointless.

“We cannot address these challenges by ignoring them, by going on strike, or by trying to ban these innovations out of existence,” she said in a blog published on Wednesday.

It was an argument that failed to sway taxi drivers around Europe, however.

“Yes this is chaos, its causing havoc in the very center of London, but what other choice have we got?” said Ian Hay, a taxi driver with 14 years’ experience.

You May Like

Gun Nation

This is who America's gun owners are More

US Border Patrol Union Accused of Taking Sides on Immigration

Report alleges agents leaking info to immigration opponents, appearing at their private events; Center for Immigration Studies director defends agents' actions More

Video Rights Monitor: Hate Groups' Use of Internet to Inflame, Recruit Growing

Wiesenthal Center's Abraham Cooper says extremists have become skilled at celebrating violence, ideology on Web More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs