Skip to main content

Taxi drivers gridlock European cities to protest Uber cab app

By CNN Staff
June 11, 2014 -- Updated 1625 GMT (0025 HKT)
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
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1056 GMT (1856 HKT)
Nonprofit Ethical Traveler has released its annual list of the developing countries doing the most to promote human rights and preserve their environments.
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1036 GMT (1836 HKT)
These waterfront watering holes have killer ocean views, creative drinks and the mahalo vibe we demand.
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 2038 GMT (0438 HKT)
Can't wait to book your ticket to Indianapolis and Oakland? The venerable guidebook is right there with you
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 0625 GMT (1425 HKT)
By helicopter, snowmobile and big-wheel truck across some of the world's most volatile landscapes.
December 9, 2014 -- Updated 2142 GMT (0542 HKT)
Construction begins on a new Singapore airport complex that could make delays and layovers a pleasure.
December 9, 2014 -- Updated 1441 GMT (2241 HKT)
Inflight chatterboxes are annoying but they're not the worst violators of onboard etiquette, according to an Expedia study.
December 8, 2014 -- Updated 2232 GMT (0632 HKT)
These statues are awe-inspiring even for the strongest of non-believers.
December 5, 2014 -- Updated 1659 GMT (0059 HKT)
The Palace of the Parliament, built by former Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.
25 years after the death of Romania's communist dictator, tourism is helping heal old wounds.
December 5, 2014 -- Updated 1152 GMT (1952 HKT)
Photo sharing website names the top 10 destinations for geo-tagged snapshots.
December 3, 2014 -- Updated 1005 GMT (1805 HKT)
New York may be a paradise of Zagat-rated, Michelin-starred restaurants, but some of its best food can be found on the streets.
December 2, 2014 -- Updated 0601 GMT (1401 HKT)
Guide Lebo behind the wheel of Chobe Game Lodge's first electric game viewing vehicle, at Chobe National Park in Botswana.
Chobe Game Lodge in Botswana ups the eco stakes with what it claims is world's first battery-powered safari fleet.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 0118 GMT (0918 HKT)
The interior of the Formosa Boulevard Mass Rapid Transit Station in Kaohsiung, in southern Taiwan.
These quirky and beautiful subway stops make standing cheek-to-cheek with 45 strangers almost seem fun.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 1314 GMT (2114 HKT)
A scene from a desert safari in Dubai
Luxury vintage Land Rover tours explore Bedouin backwaters without bashing up precious dunes.
ADVERTISEMENT