Uber Reports Massive Jump In Sign-Ups Amid European Taxi Strikes

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File of transportation app Uber is seen on the iPhone of limousine driver Shuki Zanna in Beverly Hills. Reuters

Massive cab driver protests snarled traffic in cities across Europe to protest Uber, but the demonstrations could be a boon for the mobile-driven car-sharing service as locals turn to their app to get around.

Local onlookers were quick to note the fact that traffic jams may only promote Uber's brand. 

 

Uber, the car-sharing service that connects passengers and freelance drivers has expanded to more than 100 cities in 36 countries since its launch in 2009. It raised $1.2 billion from investors in a $17 billion valuation earlier this month, but local cabbies aren’t as impressed as investors.

On Wednesday, hundreds of local Parisian taxi drivers converged on the city’s airports and caused a 120-mile traffic jam, according to Bloomberg. More than 1,200 cabbies are converging on some of London’s tourist hotspots, joined by more than 30,000 taxi and limo drivers in metro areas around Europe, where traditional drivers say Uber cars skirt taxes and fail to meet local regulations. More than 500 taxis gathered outside the Olympic stadium in Berlin, while thousands of drivers marched on Madrid’s Paeso de la Castellana. In Milan, more than 5,000 drivers will reportedly take their cars off the road until 10 p.m.

“Uber cabs are stealing our clients,” said Parisian driver Jose Losada to the New York Times.

“We are regulated to death while they circumvent the law.”

“We accept competition -- and indeed have accepted it from minicab firms for years -- but expect our competitors to play by the rules,” London writer and cab driver Ian Beetlestone said in the Guardian on Wednesday.

But the San Francisco-based startup is fighting back, and winning, at least for today.

The Goldman Sachs and Google-backed company launched a new “black cab” model in London on Wednesday, and ran an ad in local media.

“We’re the car service that’s keeping London moving, proving that choice is a beautiful thing,” it says.

 

And the charm offensive might be working. Uber has already seen an 850 percent increase in sign-ups compared to the week earlier, according to General Manager Jo Bertram.

“Londoners are voting with their fingers, tapping the app in support of new and innovative services as we see the biggest day of sign-ups in London today since launch two years ago,” she said, according to Sky News.

But the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association hasn’t given up, with leadership urging drivers on nearly an hour into the protest.

 

 

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