Taxi drivers in France are forming virtual blockades around airports and key train stations Thursday, causing chaos in Paris and other French cities as part of a wide protest against the Uber ride-booking service, known in France as UberPOP.
Government and transportation officials are urging travelers to take trains to many airports, as the roads around them are completely blocked.
Some 2,800 taxi drivers are taking part in the protest, according to Le Parisien. The newspaper adds that the drivers are angry about “the casualization of [professional] drivers.”
Cab drivers in France and elsewhere have become increasingly vocal critics of Uber, which they see as having an unfair advantage. Uber drivers don’t have to buy an expensive taxi license, for instance; they’re also not subject to the same regulations and inspections as cabs.
From Paris, NPR’s Eleanor Beardsley reports:
“In Paris, taxis are blocking the beltway, Charles de Gaulle Airport and several train stations. In one part of the city Riot police clashed with drivers as they set fire to tires and turned over one Uber car.
“Television footage has shown families with suitcases making their way by foot into the city from the airport, along the highway.
“Uber continues to operate in France while a court examines the legality of its app-based business model.
“Critics say Paris taxis in particular have resisted being opened up to competition for decades, and are now totally unprepared to confront the Uber threat.”
Skirmishes over Uber and similar services grew heated in early 2014, when the ride-hailing companies successfully challenged a rule in Paris that would have imposed a 15-minute waiting period on customers who want a ride.
In addition to clashes with police in some areas, the taxi drivers’ protests have also pitted rivals against each other. According to Le Monde, a frustrated motorcycle taxi driver pepper-sprayed a protesting taxi driver, and a ride-service driver who was attempting to push through a barricade knocked a taxi driver over, leading to an arrest and a trip to the hospital, respectively.