Okay, there are some legitimate gripes one can have about driver-on-demand services like Uber even if I think many are overstated. You can complain that you don’t like the way the company runs its business. You can question the company’s commitment to privacy. You can question the company’s hardball tactics with politicians and journalists. You can even question the impact that the company has had on the market. These are all legitimate areas to explore, though the deeper you go, the more you’re likely to realize that most of the complaints are exaggerated. However, the really crazy kneejerk anti-Uber sentiment tends to be ridiculous, and frequently driven by cab companies that just don’t like the competition. For those who use Uber, the service is almost always significantly better, more convenient (and these days, often cheaper) than traditional cab service. That’s what happens when you’re enabling competition in a previously limited market.
But some folks still are going absolutely nuts over Uber, and France appears to be ground zero for the craziest of the crazy anti-Uber folks. We’d already mentioned that French officials had raided Uber’s offices not too long ago, but today cab drivers decided to “protest” Uber by… showing that they’re a bunch of violent hooligans. At least that seems to be the message cab drivers are sending with today’s violent anti-Uber protests.
French taxi drivers blocked the entrances to Paris’s major airports and train stations, while disruptions were also reported in other cities, including Marseille and Aix-en-Provence in the South.
In Grenoble, near the border with Italy, taxi associations burned tires on the highway, while in Paris, police officers in riot gear used tear gas to disrupt the protests.
The anger from French taxi drivers is the latest in a series of challenges confronting Uber, which has been accused by taxi associations and some policy makers of breaking national transportation laws and of creating unfair competition to traditional taxis. The ride-booking service faces regulatory scrutiny in many of the countries in which it operates.
If the fire situation didn’t already give you a clue, these protests quickly went beyond mere protests, to true modern Luddism, with taxi drivers starting to flip cars and setting more fires.
Paris . No Comment pic.twitter.com/81fIIoGYcc
— La Gazette du Taxi (@LaGazetteduTaxi) June 25, 2015
Of all people, Courtney Love was in Paris and found herself held hostage because of the violent attacks:
they've ambushed our car and are holding our driver hostage. they're beating the cars with metal bats. this is France?? I'm safer in Baghdad
— Courtney Love Cobain (@Courtney) June 25, 2015
Originally, this morning I was just going to write a post about London’s silly move to make Uber drivers pass a special test akin to the infamous “The Knowledge,” but then France cabbies went and did this sort of overreaction.
So here’s the question: what do these cabbies think they’re accomplishing here? If Uber wasn’t a service that people wanted to use, then there wouldn’t be a problem. But it is something they want to use, and it’s a service they like. Getting violent, flipping cars, setting fires and terrorizing passengers is going to do what exactly? Suddenly get everyone to think “why, yes, I’d rather pay extra money and take a ride with these sociopaths?” Yes, Uber can be a bit brash in how it carries itself, but the way to deal with that is to provide a better service. Flipping cars and setting fires does not appear to be doing anything related to that.