Skip to main content

Taxi drivers gridlock European cities to protest Uber cab app

By CNN Staff
updated 12:25 PM EDT, Wed June 11, 2014
Taxi drivers who say Uber is ruining their livelihoods brought parts of central London to a standstill.
Taxi drivers who say Uber is ruining their livelihoods brought parts of central London to a standstill.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Taxi drivers create gridlock in several European cities to protest Uber mobile phone app
  • They say they app violates rules on cab licensing with its "metering" function and ruins livelihoods
  • Uber says it is helping create jobs and bringing positive change to transportation industry

(CNN) -- London's taxi drivers are famed for cramming their brains with an encyclopedic knowledge of the city's backstreets that allows them to swerve around any traffic jam.

But on Wednesday many were stuck in gridlock of their own making as they joined other cabbies across Europe staging protests against Uber, a mobile phone app they say threatens their livelihoods.

Uber customers can use their phones to flag down private cabs then meter the charges based on the length of journey.

Drivers of London's black taxis say that shouldn't be allowed.

They say they've earned a monopoly on picking up passengers on the fly and billing by meter through years of study to memorize the city's tangled street map.

To make their point, hundreds of drivers took their black cabs into central London for a horn-tooting drive around Trafalgar Square and past the UK's Houses of Parliament, bringing traffic to a standstill.

Police, who wanted the protest limited to a strict one-hour timeframe, threatened drivers with fines and arrest.

"The long and the short of it is, allowing [a company like Uber] to come in and say they're a tech company, that they don't want to be licensed ... is not fair," said Steve Garelick, a union official representing licensed London taxi drivers.

Several European cities saw similar protests.

MORE: World's 10 greatest taxis

All-out strike

In Madrid many drivers stayed home for the day with Spanish media reporting an all-out strike.

In France there were reports of taxis blockading roads in Paris and other cities.

Demonstrations were also staged in Germany and Italy.

In London, transport officials condemned the protest which one report said would cost the city £125 million ($210 million).

Garrett Emmerson, a spokesman for Transport for London, said it was a "pointless disruption for Londoners over a legal issue."

Emmerson said his organization had called on the UK's High Court to make a ruling on what constituted a "taximeter."

Uber, valued at $18 billion, has millions of customers and is expanding its operations to 128 cities in 37 countries.

Its founder, Travis Kalanick, told CNN he often sees a backlash in cities where it gains market clout.

"It's really common when we really succeed in a city that the incumbents -- the taxi industry -- are often trying to protect a monopoly that's been granted to them by local officials. They're trying to slow down competition," he said.

The company said it had benefited from Wednesday's protests, registering an 850% leap in app downloads on the previous week.

Do you prefer to use an app to flag down a ride? Let us know below.

CNN Money's Alanna Petroff contributed to this story

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 1:56 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
From Maastricht to Melbourne, these itineraries make bookish travelers look stylish.
updated 4:58 AM EDT, Tue July 29, 2014
Good cocktails combine with spectacular views across rivers, cityscapes and oceans at these bird-level drinkeries.
updated 2:09 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
A California homeowner's nightmare has become a cautionary tale for those who rent their homes to strangers.
updated 10:26 PM EDT, Sun July 20, 2014
Cinema loves portraying the lives of expats. Sometimes it gets it right. Sometimes it casts Nick Nolte as a jungle king.
updated 9:17 PM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Don't be intimidated, says a local expert. Here's how to do China without the hassles
updated 8:33 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
When your city has an unenviable reputation for insulting tourists and fleecing them for every cent, inviting hotel guests to pay what they want could be a risky move.
updated 3:10 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
1937 Auto Union V16 Streamliner, Audi Museum, Germany
With factory tours and collections of stunning vintage prototypes, southern Germany is petrolhead paradise.
updated 9:44 AM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Every tourist destination has a flip side, a season when prices go down and savvy, flexible travelers can score big savings.
updated 3:11 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
A Marrakech lamp bazaar
Morocco's Red City is crammed with stunning gardens, shaded souks and steamy bath houses.
updated 12:52 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Santo Stefano Island, Italy
Pristine beaches, unspoiled nature and few tourists -- a stretch on these former penal colonies is no longer a punishment.
updated 3:49 AM EDT, Thu July 31, 2014
Life in Joburg can be stressful. Luckily there are some exceedingly non-stressful places close by.
updated 5:07 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Istanbul skyline
CNN's Ivan Watson pays homage to the city he's called home for the past 12 years.
China notches up another superlative achievement as a Nanjing-based artist creates the world's largest and longest anamorphic painting.
updated 4:02 PM EDT, Sun July 20, 2014
In what is undoubtedly the world's "coolest" surf video, photographer Chris Burkhard endures freezing temperatures, blizzards and injury to capture Arctic waves and their riders.
updated 11:39 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Few airline routes are as cutthroat as the one that travels between London and New York. It is the world's busiest route and there are few lengths airlines won't go to in the hopes of getting a piece of the action.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT