There’s nothing quite like being on the desperately wrong side of history and angering the public in the process. That’s exactly where London cabbies are at the moment in their fight against the Uber car service. Their argument that Uber’s app violates the rules for how cab fares are metered seems an issue for the courts, not for the streets. Nevertheless, they’re taking their fight to the streets of London today starting at Trafalgar Square at 2pm local. They’ve been warned by London police that they face arrest if they do what they promise — bring London traffic to a stop.
Nothing against competition
The London cabbies say they have nothing against competition and are just standing up for Londoners by calling attention to the issue of how fares are charged. Seems like quite a bit of fuss over what should be a legal issue (if it really isn’t about competition). Having used Uber and London cabs many times in many places, it’s pretty clear that Uber has a better way to hail a cab, better way to log the trip (and cost) and a better record keeping system for the business traveler. As a woman, I find it safer, too, as my entire trip is logged as it happens and people I’ve chosen (including me) can view it live.
On the wrong side of history
This is a spurious protest by 12,000 drivers who haven’t followed the rules for striking (they skipped that step in the protest process). They’re not only on the wrong side of the law (ironically while saying they’re trying to uphold the law), they’re on the wrong side of history, too. With Uber serving over 100 cities in 37 countries, there’s little chance that London cab drivers can stop their momentum, even in the U.K. The cabbies can stop the momentum of the public for a day — and they undoubtedly will — but creating a public nuisance isn’t the right response to the fear of competition.
With the battle lines being drawn between the sharing economy (individuals in loose organization) and their competition (organized traditional businesses and government regulators), this isn’t a battle that will be decided in the streets of London today or any time soon. It takes a while for entrenched special interests to give way to new models and they rarely go down without a fight.
What do you think?