London, Paris, Madrid: Taxi drivers around the world are protesting innovation, competition

posted at 8:51 pm on June 11, 2014 by Erika Johnsen

If innovative and wildly successful ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft — which ingeniously allow customers to hail and pay for a GPS-traceable taxi cab through a smartphone app — have been facing regulatory hurdles and legal challenges in Washington, D.C. and New York City, they’re practically nothing compared to the veritable war European taxi drivers and unions are waging to thwart them.

With even larger bureaucracies, more under-the-table corruption and cronyism, farther-reaching regulations and the accompanying capture, more expensive taxes, and more inflexible labor laws, the good ol’ fashioned free-market competition that these new businesses are dishing out is an excellent and rapidly unfolding test of Europe’s willingness to either accept partial creative destruction as the growth-positive force that it is — or else allow their economy/economies to continue to languish in stagnation mode.

But the entrenched taxi businesses will not be going gently into that good night. Via Reuters:

Taxi drivers sowed traffic chaos in Europe’s top cities on Wednesday by mounting one of the biggest ever protests against Uber, a U.S. car service which allows people to summon rides at the touch of a button.

Drivers of hundreds of London’s black taxis snarled traffic in the streets around Trafalgar Square, hooting their horns as they passed Downing Street, the home of Prime Minister David Cameron, and the Houses of Parliament.

In Paris, taxi drivers slowed traffic on major arteries into the city centre during the morning commute. In Berlin hundreds choked the main road to the city’s historic centre while commuters juggled buses and trains, or simply walked, to get to work in Madrid and Barcelona. …

“This about an all out assault on our profession, our livelihoods,” said Max Small, a driver of one of London’s black taxis for 34 years. “These big companies are coming in, not playing by the rules.”

Taxi drivers across Europe level a variety of charges against Uber: that its applications break local taxi rules; that its drivers fail to comply with local insurance rules; and that it is therefore in breach of licensing and safety regulations.

You know, there might very well be something to the argument that new enterprises like Uber have an unfair advantage because they are managing to work outside of many European countries’ innovation-killing Procrustean bed of antiquated, prohibitive regulations, while traditional taxi drivers have to pay for expensive leases and medallions and training certifications and whatever other barriers to entry they’ve come up with over the years. Perhaps what they should be protesting, then, are those prohibitive regulations themselves, because their attempt to disparage new enterprises today… kind of backfired. Oops.

Taxi-hailing app Uber saw sign-ups jump to record levels on Wednesday, following a rush of publicity as cab drivers across Europe went on strike to protest against the company.

Marketing experts described the strike as an “own goal”, after Uber said there had been an 850 percent increase in sign-ups compared to last Wednesday. …

Andre Spicer, professor of organisational behavior at Cass Business School, described the strike as “PR gold” for Uber.

“It’s an own goal. Uber is top of everyone’s minds. Lots of people who have never heard of the app before now know what Uber is,” he told CNBC.


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If innovative and wildly successful ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft — which ingeniously allow customers to hail and pay for a GPS-traceable taxi cab through a smartphone app — have been facing regulatory hurdles and legal challenges in Washington, D.C. and New York City, they’re practically nothing compared to the veritable war European taxi drivers and unions are waging to thwart them.


This is likely where WWIII starts
in the taxicabs!!!

PolAgnostic on June 11, 2014 at 8:55 PM

Bloody Hell!!!

canopfor on June 11, 2014 at 8:55 PM

http://www.breakingnews.com/topic/auto-travel/

5h
Photo: London cab drivers park in street to protest on-demand car service Uber – Instagram user @fiireman

http://instagram.com/p/pHawoVLl6y/#

canopfor on June 11, 2014 at 8:57 PM

Though I’ve never had a problem in London many of those Roman and Parisian cab drivers will try to take you all the way across town and back when your destination is just around the corner.

GPS tracking can get in the way of that shady practice.

viking01 on June 11, 2014 at 8:58 PM

They are not protesting innovation and competition. They are protesting the loss of their livelihood.

Are people who protest illegal immigration protesting innovation and competition?

I really could care less. I have a car, but I understand their issue.

coolrepublica on June 11, 2014 at 8:59 PM

Why don’t they just sign up with Uber as transportation providers and ride the winning wave?

Who is John Galt on June 11, 2014 at 9:00 PM

With even larger bureaucracies, more under-the-table corruption and cronyism, farther-reaching regulations and the accompanying capture, more expensive taxes, and more inflexible labor laws, …

.
You left out 2 other important factors, EJ.

1) At any given point in time, the taxis in one or more European cities are on strike – which can make a business trip a living he11.

2) It is not possible for a non-Parisianne to flag down a taxi in Paris. Not.Possible.

PolAgnostic on June 11, 2014 at 9:01 PM

Bloody Hell Hail!!!

canopfor on June 11, 2014 at 8:55 PM

Flange on June 11, 2014 at 9:05 PM

Erika Johnsen, I applaud you for all of your hard work on this site and for your frequent posting. You are a gem.

I wish you the best in your law career.

bluegill on June 11, 2014 at 9:06 PM

The Independant story on this has an insane note about taxi drivers in London requiring 4 to 7 years of training before being licensed.

BadgerHawk on June 11, 2014 at 9:08 PM

Bloody Hell Hail!!!

canopfor on June 11, 2014 at 8:55 PM

Flange on June 11, 2014 at 9:05 PM

Flange: Ahem,..lol,..yups:)

http://www.breakingnews.com/topic/severe-storms-hit-us-east-coast-great-plains-may-11-12-2014/

canopfor on June 11, 2014 at 9:16 PM

Yet another in the long line of examples of the failure of free-market capitalism …

/Leftards

ShainS on June 11, 2014 at 9:17 PM

This is on the order of horse carriage drivers wanting to ban those blasted horseless carriages.

whatcat on June 11, 2014 at 9:18 PM

Yet another in the long line of examples of the failure of free-market capitalism …

/Leftards

ShainS on June 11, 2014 at 9:17 PM

It’s not even that to me – it’s more that the “progressives” are fighting progress.

whatcat on June 11, 2014 at 9:20 PM

Next big experiment: Craigslist Europe!

Galtian on June 11, 2014 at 9:20 PM

Erika Johnsen, I applaud you for all of your hard work on this site and for your frequent posting. You are a gem.

I wish you the best in your law career.

bluegill on June 11, 2014 at 9:06 PM

I wish her well too. Hopefully she learns to love/like the environment after she get her degree in environmental law. Haha.

Bye Erika.

coolrepublica on June 11, 2014 at 9:21 PM

I wish you the best in your law career.

blueballs on June 11, 2014 at 9:06 PM

…law career?

KOOLAID2 on June 11, 2014 at 9:21 PM

Uber rocks!

dpduq on June 11, 2014 at 9:21 PM

…law career?
KOOLAID2 on June 11, 2014 at 9:21 PM

Yep, Erika will be starting law school soon, it was announced.

bluegill on June 11, 2014 at 9:23 PM

Soon we will in fact half self-driving cars.

A top application will be self-driving taxis. The costs of transport would be so low that many people could elect to go without owning a car. The benefits of this would be huge actually, as far as saving resources that could be applied elsewhere.

Expect the greatest opposition to this to come from the ultimately useless Taxi Monopolies.

http://nextbigfuture.com/2014/05/for-self-driving-car-future-traffic.html

anotherJoe on June 11, 2014 at 9:26 PM

Taxi drivers sowed traffic chaos in Europe’s top cities on Wednesday by mounting one of the biggest ever protests against Uber, a U.S. car service which allows people to summon rides at the touch of a button.

Sounds more like their protest was directed against the citizenry. I don’t think Uber was hurt by them snarling traffic for all the ordinary people.

Typical leftists. Don’t like something? Bring pain to an unrelated party and sow chaos. Dipsh!ts.

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on June 11, 2014 at 9:29 PM

…law career?

KOOLAID2 on June 11, 2014 at 9:21 PM

Here’s a link to the May 28 announcement …

ShainS on June 11, 2014 at 9:32 PM

Lefties don’t like competition.

newportmike on June 11, 2014 at 9:35 PM

coolrepublica on June 11, 2014 at 9:21 PM

You are such a pr!ck…

Barred on June 11, 2014 at 9:37 PM

Thank god the horse and buggy lobby wasn’t well funded or unionized.

BobMbx on June 11, 2014 at 9:39 PM

This is on the order of horse carriage drivers wanting to ban those blasted horseless carriages.

whatcat on June 11, 2014 at 9:18 PM

[darn it]

BobMbx on June 11, 2014 at 9:41 PM

Lefties don’t like competition.

newportmike on June 11, 2014 at 9:35 PM

I expect they were against the invention of the wheel.

whatcat on June 11, 2014 at 9:41 PM

http://www.breakingnews.com/topic/severe-storms-hit-us-east-coast-great-plains-may-11-12-2014/

canopfor on June 11, 2014 at 9:16 PM

Rough day to get stuck without a cab in Pittsburgh.

Flange on June 11, 2014 at 9:41 PM

[darn it]

BobMbx on June 11, 2014 at 9:41 PM

Tho your point on unions slowing progress was one I missed.

whatcat on June 11, 2014 at 9:43 PM

Poor babies…

Sounds like a bad karaoke version of a good Bon Jovi song, doesn’t it…

Newtie and the Beauty on June 11, 2014 at 10:18 PM

Hopefully she learns to love/like the environment after she get her degree in environmental law. Haha.

coolrepublica on June 11, 2014 at 9:21 PM

See, THIS is why your reputation ain’t worth squat.

Newtie and the Beauty on June 11, 2014 at 10:22 PM

Hey Beauty! Long time no “see” :)

captnjoe on June 11, 2014 at 10:35 PM

coolrepublica on June 11, 2014 at 9:21 PM

See, THIS is why your reputation ain’t worth squat.

Newtie and the Beauty on June 11, 2014 at 10:22 PM

She likes abuse Beauty. Earlier she popped off with what she thought was a funny about men and vajay. A poster kicked her right smack there.

arnold ziffel on June 11, 2014 at 10:55 PM

They are not protesting innovation and competition. They are protesting the loss of their livelihood.

coolrepublica on June 11, 2014 at 8:59 PM

You mean…they’re like TEA Partiers?

BobMbx on June 11, 2014 at 11:12 PM

They are not protesting innovation and competition. They are protesting the loss of their livelihood.

That statement is internally inconsistent. The competition is exactly what threatens their livelihood, or better observed, their standard of living. Clearly money is still to be made in the industry, but the ability to cheat others and do that as a sole occupation is what is at risk.

Are people who protest illegal immigration protesting innovation and competition?
coolrepublica on June 11, 2014 at 8:59 PM

What exactly is “innovative” about illegal immigration? You do have a point w/r/t competition. If you read the article rather than just the headline, you would note that there are expensive barriers to entry for a taxi medallion. This is a carryover from the guilds and other rent seekers who felt that they were the only ones entitled to a job and other people who might be more hungry for that business were expected to just eat feces and die.

This should be a reminder that government is the muscle behind human impoverishment. Though you claim to “understand” the plight of the rent seekers who selfishly wish to keep other people out of their cartel, you are basically cheering the bullies and their enforcers and hoping that they can continue to screw over the general population with their overpriced and wasteful services.

This fits under the idea of concentrated benefits and dispersed costs. That is, it is perfectly fine in your mind to make lots of money for few people while cheating little bits of money at a time across a large population.

Another way of expressing this is: “Privatize the Pleasure, Socialize the Pain” – A Progressive motto and words to live by.

Reuben Hick on June 12, 2014 at 6:44 AM

Taxi drivers who willfully block traffic like this should have their licenses pulled, period.

WannabeAnglican on June 12, 2014 at 8:09 AM

Having just discovered and used the hell out of Uber this past weekend, I’ll never hail a cab again. Want to compete with Uber? Bathe regularly, speak English, drive carefully, and clean your fuckin’ cab.

TarasBulbous on June 12, 2014 at 8:45 AM

I have one (I think) sensible suggestion up front. Ban all airport and hotel concessions that essentially allow one or two carriers to dominate taxi/limo service in some cities. Go to Orlando FL and you will find out that roughly 70% of all the cab and limo services are in fact owned by one company. That company has the concession for almost all the mainline hotels and the airport, including all the coach services to Disney from ORL.

—————————-

I have to feel some sympathy for many of those who have built businesses or make a living under regulations they had no real part in developing. They played by the rules that were in front of them. Uber and other “alternative” taxi services are pretending they are somehow exempt.

Having said that, these types of services will continue to spring up through loopholes in the Byzantine rules governing taxi services. Wouldn’t it be simpler, as others here already have suggested, to eliminate all the insurance, training and other requirements typical cab companies have to comply with? Yes, there would be a cost in property, life and limb but too bad. You should have known anyone working part time through Uber is unlikely to have any assets worth suing for.

I live and work near DC, and its overly regulated taxi system produces drivers who can barely speak English, spend most of their time driving while talking on their mobile phones when they should be using them to access MapQuest. You would not believe how often DC cabbies get lost in what is a relatively moderately sized city.

doufree on June 12, 2014 at 8:48 AM

They are not protesting innovation and competition. They are protesting the loss of their livelihood.

Are people who protest illegal immigration protesting innovation and competition?

I really could care less. I have a car, but I understand their issue.

coolrepublica on June 11, 2014 at 8:59 PM

Well you may have a car at home, but when you travel you may need a taxi. However, you are right that they are protesting the the loss of their livelihood and what the other commenter on your post miss, is that the taxi drivers are paying license fees for their taxi, they have to have a special drivers license that allows them to carry passengers which also costs more than a regular license and they have to pay for concessions at the airports and other public transportation depots. The Uber drivers don’t pay for any of those things. That is why the taxi drivers are carrying signs that say, “Enforce the laws!”.

The local governments are going to also lose revenues when they lose the licensing and concession fees. Do you think they will do that without a fight too?

Personally, I’m all for anything that takes away power and money from government. Government is evil. The only reason for the licenses is too reduce competition.

The analogy to illegal immigration is poor, but it is hand in hand with the H1B visa issue. Business and government want to destroy citizens ability to make a living wage through cheap labor. The more people they get on welfare, the more dependent more of us will be on government handouts, and the more people will vote for those handouts. Government isn’t just evil; it is the enemy.

earlgrey on June 12, 2014 at 9:56 AM

because they are managing to work outside of many European countries’ innovation-killing Procrustean bed of antiquated, prohibitive regulations

You mean like insurance and safety regulations? That’s what is mentioned directly above your statement. I’m all for innovation in these areas (though it really isn’t that innovative, the main ‘breakthrough’ seems to be merely a better way to find a taxi near you), but you need to not lump everything in together when you start talking about “Procrustean … regulations”. It hurts your credibility.

GWB on June 12, 2014 at 12:33 PM

I just returned from a week in NYC and must say UBER was fantastic. Pronto service, fantastic cars (usually a nice SUV at a black car price), and cheap, cheap, cheap (compared to taxis). Also, when they confirmed the car, UBER sent a description of the car, a photo of the driver and the license plate number of the vehicle to my phone. The taxi authorities like to say they are “protecting” the public from wanton murder and rape, but how much more safe can you get? (particularly considering you get none of this in a cab). This is simply rent-seeking by the cab companies and their political lap dogs.

Rise up, as in the days of old, to fight from your freedom!

JoeHop on June 12, 2014 at 12:50 PM