Barcelona taxi drivers blockade roads in Uber protest

Barcelona taxi drivers have blockaded areas of the city over the weekend as they take strike action into a fourth day on Monday over what they consider to be insufficient government plans to rein in competition from ride-hailing companies such as Uber.

The taxi drivers rejected proposals tabled by Catalonia’s regional government under which ride-sharing drivers would have to wait 15 minutes before attending to a passenger request.

As taxi drivers blocked off Barcelona’s central Gran Via avenue on Friday, tension flared with one ride-sharing driver requiring medical assistance for an anxiety attack after a group of striking taxi drivers or sympathisers smashed his car’s windows and mirrors while he was in the vehicle.

Ride-sharing drivers parked their cars along another of Barcelona’s main thoroughfares, Diagonal, in protest at what their representatives described as taxi drivers’ “mafia-like behaviour”.

Formula 1 driver Carlos Sainz tweeted a video allegedly showing the aftermath of an attack against an Uber vehicle that his sister was using in Madrid, its interior showered with shattered glass after a stone was thrown at the car.

Madrid’s taxi drivers plan to strike on Monday as they also seek stricter controls on how and when ride-hailing companies can operate.

Under the plan unveiled by Catalonia’s infrastructure minister, Damià Calvet, ride-sharing drivers would be obliged to return to their designated base after each service and customers would not be able to track the car they hire via GPS on the company app.

But taxi drivers voted to reject the plan, mainly on the basis that the 15-minute delay between the contracting of a private service and the start of the ride would be too short to make any noticeable difference.

Taxi driver unions have asked for a built-in delay of 12 or even 24 hours, effectively meaning that traditional taxis would have a monopoly on immediate services.

On Sunday Mr Calvet unsuccessfully offered to negotiate a new minimum waiting time for ride-hailing services if the taxi drivers agreed to call off their strike.

Tito Álvarez, leader of the Élite Taxi association, said Barcelona’s city taxi drivers wanted to end the conflict, adding that violence was unacceptable and that he would step aside if any more attacks against ride-sharing drivers took place.

“We want the politicians to hold a crisis cabinet meeting. Otherwise they will find us here on the street because we are not going to give up.”