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

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land In French Port

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching 'Fortress Europe' More

Video Westgate Mall Attack Survivors Confront Painful Memories

On anniversary of terror attack, survivors discuss how they have coped with trauma they experienced that day More

New Hints That Dark Matter Exists

New evidence from International Space Station hints at existence of dark matter and dark energy 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.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid