Paris Taxi Drivers Protest Uber by Blocking Roads
Ironically, this probably resulted in surge pricing.
Taxi drivers aren’t known for being good at sharing the road, but drivers in Paris brought it to a whole new level today when they shut down several of the city’s roads to protest Uber and other ride-hailing app services.
Several dozen Parisian hacks attempted to march onto a major highway—only to be rebuffed by police officers launching tear gas grenades. At least 20 drivers were arrested for charges of “violence, carrying weapons, and starting a fire,” which is known amongst New York City taxi drivers as “a normal workday.”
Around 1,200 taxi drivers joined the protests across Paris, with protesters lighting fires on the street and setting up traffic blockades. Two people were reportedly injured at Paris’s Orly airport when a shuttle bus attempted to blast through a barricade of taxi drivers.
The Parisian taxi protest was part of a massive nationwide strike that kicked off Tuesday, with an estimated 5.6 million people—teachers, air traffic controllers and health care workers among them—protesting a wide range of labor issues, including job losses, wage stagnation, and the cost of living. But for the taxi drivers, protesting not just in Paris but across the country, the cri de coeur was an outcry against Uber, ride-hailing and other forms of unlicensed taxis.
While the French government does have a law on the books designed to equalize the playing field between taxis and non-traditional competitors like Uber, taxi drivers allege the law has not been enforced, causing their revenues to drop between 20 and 40 percent in recent years.
The relationship between taxis and other cars-for-hire in France is fairly similar to their relationship in New York City: Taxis can be hailed on the street, whereas other cars-for-hire must be booked in advance. The relationship worked fairly well—until Uber and other ride-hailing apps made it possible to call for a car at the touch of a button, thus taking a huge chunk out of the impromptu car ride market upon which taxi drivers depend.
And much as in NYC, the French government only issues a limited number of taxi licenses, so many drivers pay up to six figures to snag one of the choice medallions. So, yeah, it’s not hard to see why they’d be fire-starting pissed.