Business, Finance & Economics

Taxi drivers across Europe create gridlock over Uber app

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Thomas Peter/Reuters

A man attends an Europe-wide protest of licensed taxi drivers against ride hailing apps, like Uber, they fear will allow unregulated, private drivers into the market, in front of the Olympic stadium in Berlin, June 11, 2014.

Taxi drivers in cities across Europe — including Berlin, Paris, and London — protested Wednesday against the transportation app, Uber.

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The Uber app connects passengers with drivers of vehicles for hire and ride-sharing services.

Cabbies are angry about the app using something other than a meter to determine the price of rides. The drivers have taken their complaints to London's High Court.

A decision may still be several months away, but about 12,000 black cabs came to central London's Trafalgar Square Wednesday to show their solidarity.

Lewis Norton, the branch secretary for the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers said he came out to the protest because he believes current regulations are not being applied fairly when it comes to Uber.

"Transport for London, our licensing body, refuses to enforce the law,” Norton said. “Specifically, the 1998 London Private Hire Vehicles act, which Uber circumvents and is in direct contravention of."

Uber has been unpopular with taxi drivers in the US and Canada as well, but this protest brought London to a standstill.

"There’s zero movement of traffic. I mean, solid black cabs for as far as the eye can see — from Trafalgar Square down to Big Ben at the moment," Norton said.

The ubiquitous black cab business is as integral to the London experience as the red double-decker buses, but outsiders like Uber, a San Francisco-based company, are taking a bite out of their normal customer base.

"The black cab is not a monopoly, and it’s not a private company. The black cab is essentially public transport along with the Tube and the buses. Uber could have a monopoly in the future, because [it is] a very strong, solely-funded organization. [It] operates in the free market, the black cabs do not," he said. 

The protests, however, may have backfired. Uber announced Wednesday that it had the most downloads of its app ever in London, as travelers tried to navigate around blocked areas.

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    Luke MacGregor/Reuters

    A taxi driver puts his feet up during a demonstration along the Mall in central London June 11, 2014.

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    Philippe Wojazer/Reuters

    A yellow ribbon indicates a striking Paris taxi, taking part in a demonstration in the French capital June 11, 2014.

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    Thomas Peter/Reuters

    A man attends a Europe-wide protest of licensed taxi drivers in front of the Olympic stadium in Berlin, June 11, 2014. Drivers fear the ride-hailing apps will allow a rush of unlicensed drivers into the market.

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    Luke MacGregor/Reuters

    Taxi drivers join a demonstration along the Mall in central London June 11, 2014.