One place in the world where the tension between traditional cab drivers and on-demand car services like Uber is getting most heated is France, and a taxi strike at Paris airports Monday turned "very violent" for at least a few Uber passengers, as TechCrunch reports. Striking taxi drivers blocked highways leading to Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports and in at least one instance documented on Twitter, threw paint on an Uber black car, slashed one of its tires, and smashed a window trying to grab at two frightened passengers inside.
The passengers happened to be a couple of tech execs, Five by Five co-founder Kat Borlongan and Eventbrite co-founder Renaud Visage. Visage described the incident saying they were "more shaken up than hurt," but added, "We are still in shock because of how violent the attack was."
Apparently some French policemen were present for the protest but allowed the angry mob of cab drivers to attack black cars en route to and from the airport. Visage and Borlongan's car had paint thrown at it, and when the attackers could get any of the car's doors open, they smashed one of the windows. The driver managed to drive a few miles away before pulling over to change the tire which had been slashed. Visage says he was returning to Paris after a trip to the Philippines.
Parisian cab drivers staged another protest last Thursday, blocking roads around the city en masse.
The issue of these urban transportation services has been a hot-button one in labor-sensitive France, where the government recently caved to pressure from cab drivers to enforce a 15-minute delay for all pickups by Uber and other competitors, like LeCab, Chauffeur-Privé, and Allocab. Cab drivers want the delay to become 30 minutes, and for black-car services to have an $80 minimum fare, in order to discourage their use.
American cab customers, particularly in big markets like the Bay Area, are already used to hearing the idle complaints of cab drivers whose livelihoods have been impacted by the runaway success of Uber and Lyft. But cab drivers here have yet to organize any such high-profile protests, and the state of California recently made it a lot easier for Uber and others to do business. Just last week Uber announced it was cutting UberX fares in 16 cities across the country, essentially trying to gut the traditional taxi industry.