This Wasn't Supposed To Happen: European Cab Protests Lead To 850% Increase In New Uber Users

Tyler Durden's picture

As we reported earlier, today Europe woke up more congested than usual, with traffic snarled up beyond recognition for one simple reason: from London, to Madrid, to Berlin some 12,000 taxi drivers took to the streets... and parked there, in protest of the $18.2 billion-valued startup Uber, which has grown so fast it i) has threatened the livelihood of cab drivers from San Francisco to Stockholm, and ii) is about to launch a myriad of copycat services in this no barriers to entry model where distributed participation is merely a question of where the driver earns the most money, and thus, which company is willing to generate the lowest profits (or most negative cash flow) in order to thrive - think Amazon.

Valuation questions aside, it appears that the European taxi driver protest has led to the one outcome which not only none of the protest participants anticipated, but had desperately hoped to avoid: a sharp surge in Uber popularity and further cannibalization of the legacy taxi customer base which disgusted by the taxi protest looked for, and found, alternative means of transportation. According to the Independent, "Uber said it experienced an 850 per cent increase new users today as London's black cabs staged a protest that brought gridlock to the city centre."

How did this latest attempt to stop progress and customer choice backfire so dramatically? Simple:

Drivers’ unions said that the rise of Uber is leading people to contact unlicensed drivers without any checks on whether they are legitimate.


But Uber's UK and Ireland general manager Jo Bertram said: “Londoners are voting with their fingers, tapping the app in support of new and innovative services as we see our biggest day of sign-ups in London today since launch two years ago.


"In fact, today we're seeing an 850 per cent increase in sign-ups compared to last Wednesday. The results are clear: London wants Uber in a big way.


Uber described the union representing black cab drivers, the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA), as “stuck in the dark ages”, and accused it of “holding London to ransom” with an economic impact of £125 million.

Of course, there is no way to actually check if Uber is merely making up this uber surge in sign ups: certainly start ups desperate for even more buzz (and venture capital spending) have been known to fib now and then at important milestones in their lifecycles, but even if the number is one uber lie, the reality remains:  as long as local governments try to extract their pound of flesh by regulating the cab business, be it in the US, or Europe, alternative providers such as Uber will prosper unhindered by encroaching bureaucracy, at least until said (very much broke) governments decide it is time to regulate the Ubers of the world too.

This may be the legacy taxi drivers' last hope:

The RMT's Ian Beetlestone said he hoped the demonstration would send a message that Uber is “operating in a grey area”.


He said: “We are not objecting to competition. We have had competition for years from minicabs but we haven't caused gridlock over it.


“We have to jump through hoops to be regulated and we don't feel people involved in these new apps are being subjected to the same regulations.”


Similar taxi driver protests took place today in Madrid, Milan, Berlin and Paris. Uber now operates in more than 100 cities in 30 countries and last week was valued at $18.2 billion, a fivefold increase in the space of a year. If the valuation is to be believed, an app launched five years ago is now worth more than the global car hire firm Hertz, which was founded in 1918.

Well, for all taxi drivers stuck in the middle ages, we have good news: in this day and age, in which every government is seeking to tax, and otherwise extract pounds, and tons if possible, of flesh from anything that generates any cash flows, it is only a matter of time before Uber too succumbs to one then another, then a third corrupt official working for that multi-headed hydra which merely takes and never gives: the local government.

It also means that in a few years, anyone who extrapolated Uber's growth rate in perpetuity, and assigned a valuation to match, will be very much regretting they day when they valued the company higher than Chipotle, Autozone, Dollar General, Loews, Seagate and so on. Because the days of free enterprise in a "fairness doctrine" world are numbered.

For now, however, enjoy the almost free ride, and watch and learn as the government destroys yet another business model.

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zaphod's picture

It's kinda hard for a strike to be effective when there is a new pool of available and ready workers (in this case uber drivers) willing to provide the same service for less. 

hedgeless_horseman's picture



Drivers’ unions said that the rise of Uber is leading people to
contact unlicensed drivers without any checks on whether they are


Latka: You known in my country everyone shares with everyone.
Elaine: Oh thats beautiful.
Latka: Otherwise they shoot you.

Chuck Norris's picture

There is no unintended market consequence that cannot be fixed by more government.

MillionDollarBogus_'s picture

 "Uber said it experienced an 850 per cent increase new users today as London's black cabs staged a protest that brought gridlock to the city centre."

How could Uber's business increase 850% if they use the same gridlocked streets..??

Matt's picture

So they had a surge in people downloading a free app to their phone, which takes a couple seconds, not an 850% increase in actual revenue or service usage. 

Isn't that kind of like a news story resulting in increased traffic to your company homepage?

logicalman's picture

An eye-opener maybe?

But look at the other side - how much does a cab licence cost - if you paid for protection, you expect to get protection.


Stackers's picture

Newspeak: "We have had to jump through hoops to be regulated"

Translation: "We've worked long and hard paying off crony bureaucrats to have the government enforce our monoply"

RyeWhiskey's picture

Close but in reverse. From taxicab driver it''s more like -

I pay my local taxes -  Uber doesn't.

I purchased my business permit from the city - Uber didn't.

My vehicle is regulated and inspected - Uber's isn't.

I have commecial insurance requirement - Uber refuses to comply.

Get the picture? Don't believe every pump-n-dump you're witnessing.


Stackers's picture

you are driving around in a marked vehicle openly soliciting random pedestrian traffic - Uber doesn't

you are advertising your service for mass consumption to an uninformed client - Uber doesn't - it serves known clients who go out of their way to request Uber specifically

There is a MASSIVE difference in a private contracted car transport service and open public flag down taxi driving on the road hoping to be infront of someone when needed.


Uber is not a taxi service. It is basically an affordable limo service. these are nothing new and there is a reason they are not regulated like traditional hail for service taxis.

Yeah, I get the picture


Yen Cross's picture

 Your comment is spot on! UBER isn't cheap and requires a credit card on file to use their service.

Zerozen's picture

Sometimes taxis are flag-down type services (random pickup) but where I live, for example, they are never used this way. Taxis have to be called and they come to wherever you are. Same thing that Uber does, except they have to comply with all the local laws and regulations imposed on them (read: expenses).

Greenskeeper_Carl's picture

Cry me a river. Free people should be able to choose to contract with another free person in allegedly free countries in any manner they wish. That is all that matters. Can drivers shouldn't be complaining about über, they should be questioning why they have to do all those things you listed above at all. That's the real problem. But of course most people are too dense to ask those questions, and too used to bein told what to do.

Zerozen's picture

That's exactly what they are complaining about.

It's like 90% of the people on this thread need to brush up on their reading comprehension.

From that article itself:


He said: “We are not objecting to competition. We have had competition for years from minicabs but we haven't caused gridlock over it.


“We have to jump through hoops to be regulated and we don't feel people involved in these new apps are being subjected to the same regulations."

Greenskeeper_Carl's picture

I read the article. Nothing wrong with my reading comprehension. What I got out of it is that they want über to be subjected to the same regulations the cabs are, not the cabbies saying they should ALL be free to conduct business as free people in a manner of their choosing.

Zerozen's picture

I was agreeing with you. I was saying a lot of the other people on this thread are misreading the article.

Sure, it would be ideal if cabbies were free to conduct their business as free people... either way, the key thing I got out of it is there's a double standard for Uber cabs, another for regular cabs

Carl Spackler's picture

and to that I say..."Gunga, gunga, gunga ga-lunga. On your deathbed you will receive total consciousness."

NoPantsSpongeBob's picture

Cry me a river.

Or at least adjust the attitude, now with a new competition in town. NYC taxi drivers can be fucking assholes.

css1971's picture

The clarion call of business world wide.

Hippocratic Oaf's picture

I use Uber

Great service.

When you have to walk several blocks just to wait and hail a cab, they come right to your door in 7 minutes

Survival of the fittest BITCHEZ!!!

jbvtme's picture

plus, they speak your language

Quus Ant's picture

Walk several blocks??!!

F that.  The cabbie should come in your house and carry you to the chariot.

plus hearing someone complain about walking several blocks while declaring "survival of the fittest" is... awesome.

Hippocratic Oaf's picture

Guess pushing a stroller in the rain is a better option AND fighting for the next car.

Go fuck yourself.

Platinum's picture

I gave you an upvote simply because of the mental picture your comment gave me.


A surly NYC cabby carrying a man in a suit holding a briefcase on his shoulders as he shouts "survival of the fittest", as they head towards a waiting cab, where the fare hasn't been started yet.

RyeWhiskey's picture

Some individuals like to praise this self-glorified car service.

Others had a less "glorious" experiences such as  -

having to pay medical bills following an accident in which

Uber driver was not properly insured,

or pehaps this young woman that was plain kidnapped by an Uber

driver only a few days ago:

Greenskeeper_Carl's picture

Totally correct. Like that one time when we had too much dangerous freedom and then the govt came in and fixed everything and made it all perfectly safe? Remember that time? Me neither, cuz it never fuckin happens.

Zoomorph's picture

That story doesn't really make sense tbh. She was drunk and can't remember anything - maybe she consented to go with him to the motel? He didn't sexually "abuse" her all night, but waited until the morning, then let her freely go when she didn't want to? So what exactly did he do wrong, then?

IMO sounds like an innocent guy got led on by a drunk girl, did nothing to her, and is probably going to go to prison for it because, you know, just looking at someone the wrong way is abuse nowadays (especially true if they're a female).

RyeWhiskey's picture

And we are supposed to believe numbers provided by Uber itself?

Sure. Gazillion % growth every two weeks.

doctor10's picture

can't wait until this happens in medicine!

RyeWhiskey's picture

Open heart surgeries at market prices? No experience or license needed.

Download the app. Have your pants on. And you all set.

(Last requirement is optional).

Relentless101's picture

Now that's funny. Economics are a motherfucker when your on her bad side. 

999.9's picture

Yes, I am sure these are real numbers

elegance's picture

Why not? I woke today with news about Uber in the morning, every effing news bulletin on radio started with news about Uber, evening news featured Uber prominently. And I am about to download the Uber app to my tablet just to piss the cabbie dinosaurs.

Conflict of Interest's picture

It's hard to take the Italian protestors seriously.  When I was in Italy last summer, just about every other cab was illegal.  And yet the cabbies never protested against *them*.  That and none of the cabs, legal or illegal, bothered to turn on their meter.

Dr. Engali's picture

Doh! Who could have seen that one coming? Certainly not the embedded cretins who would hold the country hostage because of some competition. Market forces are a bitch.

jbvtme's picture

"the internet is going to ruin everything" said a jew businessman to a cnbc reporter in 1998. yup

NoDebt's picture

For a minute there, I thought that was my quote being repeated.  But I wasn't that smart yet in 1988.  And I'm not Jewish.


jbvtme's picture

check out  "flight car" in san francisco, where you lease your rig out at the airport while you fly (rather than paying to park it). sfo sued the company for "unfair and deceptive trade practices". not sure of the disposition. desperate times for the established order.

dojufitz's picture

Yes....I was talking to an Antique Dealer a few weeks ago......

he said it was really great before the Net stuffed everything up.......

now too many people are informed.....

RyeWhiskey's picture

Market forces supposed to operate within the bounds of the law, dear doctor.

Otherwise we can call offshore-based money-laundering operation

with an IPhone app - a "progress" and be done with it.

Having a double-standard is unfair. That's what this protest is about.

Dr. Engali's picture

Laws written by special interests you mean. Market forces help tear down those laws that are designed to protect the status quo.

RyeWhiskey's picture

That's a perfect example of mass media meme sponsored by and brought to you by those

who plan (and do) benefit from reaping off thousands of law-abiding

small transportation businesses.

How is having my vehicle inspected 4 times a year a

"protection" for my small business?

How is me paying for my business permit to the local municipality

is "protecting" anything? You want to compete - it's free for all -

have a permit and operate. 

Municipal permits are city revenue. Not my personal profit.

Funny how destruction of small businesses for the sake of creating

yet another offshore-based tax-evading monopoly is manipulated

into "general good".

Oh, war is peace, freedom is slavery. I forgot... Back to normal.

Go on.

PhilofOz's picture

Some excellent points. Another case of the big boys wiping out small business. Uber, the Walmart of the cab buniness. I know there are very few here that support Walmart after their destruction of small business, yet this is no different.

Matt's picture

"How is me paying for my business permit to the local municipality

is "protecting" anything? You want to compete - it's free for all -

have a permit and operate"

In many jurisdictions the number of permits allowed is restricted. It is a golden ticket to make money, since only a limited number of people are allowed to do it.


On the other hand, if you let people have free-for-all competition, people will keep undercutting each other until they are operating at a loss, or by reducing expenses like maintenance.

Zoomorph's picture

These laws exist to make the government rich and keep them and their friends in power. Think hard - what's the down side to Uber? Taxi drivers will lose their government-enforced monopoly. People will pay less for rides. Taxi drivers may have to become Uber drivers instead, and take a cut in pay.

Are you seriously suggesting that free markets are bad because taxi drivers somehow deserve to get paid more than the fair market price for their services?

Off-shore money laundering blah blah blah. All of this is people trying to keep their money out of grasp of the government, which tries to steal money from people to feed itself. They are all good things that are slandered in popular opinion because they threaten the government's grip on everyone.

NoDebt's picture

Cost of a NYC Taxi Medallion:  $1,000,000.  Might be double that since the last time I checked.  And you wonder why apps like Uber are growing in popularity?

RyeWhiskey's picture

That's $1,000.000 in NYC municipal revenue.
Not offshore Uber bank accounts.