Taxi drivers in France have launched nationwide protests against the ridesharing service Uber, blocking crucial transport infrastructure in major cities. Cabbies are demanding regulation to curb Uber's rise in France.
French police in riot gear used tear gas to disperse French taxi drivers who stepped up their protests against the ridesharing service Uber on Thursday, blocking road access to airports and train stations in Paris and other cities.
The "peripherique" highway that encircles the French capital was closed in both directions in the west after drivers put up barricades on the roads. Access to three terminals at Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport in the north was also blocked, and cabs were converging on Orly airport in the south and train stations inside the city.
"The goal is to block space, because we are really fed up," said Karim Asnoun of the CGT union.
Taxi drivers in France are angry at the unlicensed taxi service from the United States, which they say is putting regular taxi jobs on the line by taking customers away. Uber links private car drivers with passengers through a smartphone app, offering them cheaper rates than traditional taxi firms.
"We are faced with permanent provocation [from Uber] to which there can only be one response: total firmness in the systematic seizure of offending vehicles," Serge Metz, head of taxi firm G7 Metz told French TV station BFM. "We are truly sorry to have to hold clients and drivers hostage. We're not doing this lightly."
Protests and legal challenge
Part of Thursday's protests were road blockades around Marseilles and Aix-en-Provence in southeast France, where cab drivers set up barriers at key motorway exits, and blocked access to train stations in the two cities. They were also protesting on the main access to Marseilles-Provence airport.
Uber has been present in Paris since 2011. Currently, it is expanding its services in other major cities, fueling the anger of taxi drivers, who accuse it of unfair competition.
A law from October 2014 placed a ban on putting clients in touch with unregistered drivers. Uber has contested the rule, saying it is unclear and runs counter to the freedom to do business.
On Tuesday, the matter was referred to France's Constitutional Council, where the legislation will be reviewed for constitutionality.
uhe/cjc (AFP, Reuters, dpa)