Uber protests bring major European cities to a halt

European taxi drivers are organizing protests against Uber, saying that the ride-share service should also have its drivers get a special taxi license, which costs around $270,000.
By Ananth Baliga   |   June 11, 2014 at 11:43 AM
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LONDON, June 11 (UPI) -- Taxi drivers are protesting Uber's car-sharing service by disrupting traffic across major European cities, including Madrid, Paris, London and Berlin.

This is one of the largest protests organized against the San Francisco-based startup, totaling more than 30,000 taxi and limo drivers from London to Berlin. Drivers are protesting that Uber drivers are not required to acquire a special taxi permit that can cost up to $270,000.

"While the taxi protests may seek to bring Europe to a standstill, we'll be on hand to get our riders from A to B," said Uber in a statement.

London is expected to endure the largest protests. Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, said that between 10,000 and 20,000 black cabs and private hire cars are expected to block Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square.

City police said that protesters didn't have the necessary permits to assemble in such large numbers and that they could arrest demonstrators who assemble before the start time of 2 p.m. and stay beyond 3 p.m.

Around 1,200 Parisian drivers blocked the Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports, preventing private car drivers from picking up passengers, according to Nadine Annet, vice president at the FNAT taxi association in France. Local TV also reported that taxi drivers also slowed down traffic on the A1 highway that circles Paris, causing a 120-mile long traffic congestion.

Parisian drivers have protested Uber's service in the past, resulting in smashed windshields and traffic chaos in Paris.

"We are against them. There needs to be the same rules for all," said Parisian taxi driver Kader Djielouli.

Protests in Madrid saw thousands of drivers marching towards the city's main avenue, Paseo de la Castellana, blocking it. Protesters, who were chanting anti-Uber insults, were escorted by policemen in cars, a helicopter and on foot. Berlin taxi drivers targeted the airports and the Kurfuerstendamm shopping district.

"While we are demonstrating, the other guys are hauling people around," said taxi driver Kubilay Sarikaya. "There have to be other ways. Ultimately I think folks know that they can always count on the good old cab to get them where they need to be."

Of the 128 cities that Uber operates in, 20 are in Europe including cities like Manchester, Zurich and Lyon. Uber in its last round of fundraising was valued at around $17 billion, nearly five times more than during its last fundraising round.

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