Hundreds of French taxi drivers have set tires ablaze, blocked traffic across the country and clashed with police, declaring an indefinite strike to protest the US online ride-sharing service, UberPOP.
On Thursday, roads around Paris became car parks as angry cabbies blockaded routes to the airport and the main ring road around the capital city.
Television showed scenes of smashed car windscreens and taxi drivers trying to overturn vehicles they said were being used to serve the rival and low-cost UberPop service.
Police in riot gear used tear gas to contain the imbroglio, and restore the traffic flow as thick smoke from burning tires billowed into the sky.
People trying to reach Charles de Gaulle and Orly international airports were caught in the chaos, forcing travelers to walk alongside highways with their bags and causing many to miss their flights at last.
Taxi drivers held similar protests in Lyon, Nice, Marseilles, Toulouse and other French cities, snarling traffic.
They set up barriers around Marseilles and Aix-en-Provence in southern France, and blocked access to train stations in the two cities.
Uber, the upstart California-based transport service which says it has one million users in France, links drivers of private cars with potential passengers via a smartphone application, and at cheaper rates than traditional taxis.
Taxi drivers complain that Uber unfairly undercuts them, and threatens their jobs by taking customers away from licensed cab companies.
“UberPOP drivers don’t have the license but they do exactly the same thing as us,” Jean-Luc Refin, a striking taxi driver, said. He added that the business was down 30 percent because of the UberPOP service.
Meanwhile, France’s Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has sided with irate taxi drivers, calling for a nationwide clampdown on the UberPOP service.
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