Uber Protests Snarl Traffic In Europe, But To What End?

by
Lauren Burgoon
London's iconic black cabs take on new kid Uber, but the massive protest may have backfired.

In the fight simmering between cabbies and car service company Uber, it's tourists who are paying the price in Europe.

Striking cab drivers made good on their promise to clog streets and block popular tourist destinations to protest Uber's encroachment on their business. 

In Paris, they called it "Operation Escargot." In London, the black cab protest caused massive gridlock. Taxi drivers also took to the streets in Berlin, Madrid and Milan, among other cities. 

The four-wheeled war is over the San Francisco-based Uber, now available in 38 countries and rapidly expanding. Customers can hitch a ride with just a few taps of their smartphone and sometimes for a cheaper fare. Uber bills itself as "everyone's private driver."

Cabbies -- who often pay upward of $200,000 for a license in European countries -- are crying foul because Uber drivers aren't subjected to the same rules that restrict them. 

Cab drivers say there are also principles at stake, NPR reports. In London, cab drivers have to memorize every single city street before they can even test to become a driver. 

Uber is raising ire in many places it goes. London's high court will hear complaints about the situation, the company was banned in Brussels, and Virginia ordered the company to stop operating there.  

But will it make a difference? Uber's website says it still operates in Brussels and even posted a job opening there, and the company refused to stop operating in Virginia too. 

Uber could be laughing all the way to the bank regardless. Reports indicate the European cab strike caused an 850 percent increase in the Uber app download in London alone.