Anti-Uber taxi protest in London backfires

London traffic is a snarl-up at the best of times, so the news that no less than 12,000 black cab drivers were undertaking a traffic-blocking protest on the streets made many commuters’ blood turn cold.

The cabbies were protesting the expansion of taxi-hire app Uber, which they say threatens their business, and could be against UK law.

However, the protest hasn’t quite gone as planned, and might actually have had the opposite effect. The huge spike in publicity for the app has apparently resulted in an 850 per cent leap in downloads.

Jo Bertram, the app’s UK and Ireland general manager, said it had seen its biggest day of downloads since it launched in London two years ago.

“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. Unsurprisingly, the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA), which is stuck in the dark ages, is intent on holding London to ransom and causing significant economic impact to Londoners today, estimated to be £125m,” she said.

“We join Transport for London and the Metropolitan Police in calling on the LTDA and others to call off this unnecessary and irresponsible strike. We passed TfL’s most stringent and comprehensive audit of a Private Hire Vehicle operator to date, passing with flying colours. We are proud to be in London, we are proud to serve London, and we are here to stay. Uber on London!”

TfL remains unimpressed, naturally enough, and according to the Beeb, Garrett Emmerson, the organisation’s COO for surface transport, said: “A number of taxi drivers are set to cause pointless disruption for Londoners over a legal issue that is down to the courts to decide upon. TfL will work with the Metropolitan Police to do all we can to keep central London moving. However, given the scale of the likely disruption, we would advise drivers to avoid the area if at all possible.”

Uber works by pinpointing a customer’s location by GPS, and then sending a nearby taxi to meet them. Users can select their desired model of car and can pay for their journey entirely through the app.