oh le taxi

European Cab Drivers Unite Against the Inevitable Uber Onslaught

A London black cab driver reads a newspaper during a protest against a new private taxi service 'Uber', a mobile phone app, on the Mall leading to Buckingham Palace in central London on June 11, 2014. Taxi drivers brought parts of London, Paris and other European cities to a standstill on June 11 as they protested against new private cab apps such as Uber which have shaken up the industry. Thousands of London's iconic black cabs, many of them beeping their horns, filled the roads around Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square and the Houses of Parliament to the exclusion of any other vehicles. AFP PHOTO / CARL COURT
Got no place to be. Photo: Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images

It was more or less impossible to hail a cab in Europe today, as more than 30,000 taxi and limo drivers went on strike across the continent to protest Uber. The strike against the car service app took over major cities such as London, Berlin, Barcelona, and Paris (where it’s dubbed Operation Escargot!), with cabbies blocking roadways, snarling traffic, and generally making life hell for people who needed to get to the airport.

Paris Photo: Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images

The strikes were fueled largely by taxi drivers’ fears that the arrival of the app will leave the industry full of unregulated drivers, allowing those who don’t have to purchase taxi medallions or comply with the same licensing or tax standards. “We have to have a license to own a cab, we have to have a driver’s license, a cab driver’s license,” said one London cab driver. “For some reason they seem to be outside the law.” In other words, they’re afraid they won’t be able to compete as Uber cuts into their business and completes its quest for world transportation domination. Indeed, NPR reports that Uber is in 20 European cities already and doubling its fleet every six months.

Trying to get to the airport in Paris Photo: Boris Horvat/AFP/Getty Images

Yet the strike might have backfired in the worst possible way. Because if you needed a taxi, there was no one else to call but … Uber. “What I’m seeing is taxis are trying to bring cities to a standstill, while Uber is focused on helping as many people as possible move around cities,” said Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, Uber’s general manager for Northern and Western Europe, with what we guess might be barely disguised glee. Reports suggested that Uber’s business rose a whopping 850 percent in London. Though protests took places in some cities, like Madrid and Lisbon, where Uber hasn’t even arrived yet, some pointed out that this is the best advertising Uber could ask for, as anyone who hasn’t heard of the app certainly will now. 

Let’s consider ourselves lucky that, despite anxiety over passenger ratings and insane fare spikes, Uber and yellow cabs have somehow found a way to exist in relative harmony here. Now, more scenes from across the pond.

Paris Photo: Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images
Madrid Photo: Gerard Julien/AFP/Getty Images
Madrid Photo: Gerard Julien/AFP/Getty Images
London Photo: Carl Court/AFP Photo/Getty Images

Disruption in action.

And finally, an empty taxi stand in Madrid.

Uber Protests Hit Major European Cities