Ride-hailing services want to remain in Barcelona despite new regulation

Cabify and Bolt say lack of new vehicles on market prevents them from updating fleet on time

A protest in favor of the ride hailing industry in Barcelona
A protest in favor of the ride hailing industry in Barcelona / Marta Vidal / Miquel Vera

ACN | @agenciaacn | Barcelona

September 30, 2022 10:00 AM

September 30, 2022 10:44 AM

October 1 will be a big day in Catalonia, not least because it marks the fifth anniversary of the referendum deemed illegal by Spain as disputes within the independence movement are at an all-time high, but because the new ride-hailing regulation comes into effect.

Although this tightens the requirements the sector must abide by, from ensuring vehicles are at least 4.9 meters long and have either ECO or 0 low emissions badges to having insurance equivalent to taxis, companies like Cabify and Bolt have expressed their willingness to stay in Barcelona.

Cabify and Bolt to "continue in Barcelona"

There are around 4,000 ride-hailing licenses in Catalonia, of which 2,500 to 3,000 have an assigned vehicle.

"The city of Barcelona needs a mobility alternative to the taxi," Cabify spokesperson Javier Dorado told the Catalan News Agency, adding that his company "clearly" wanted to keep operating in the city.

Daniel Georges, the head of Bolt in Spain, said they would "continue in Barcelona" and do "everything possible" to expand their service.

Not enough cars for sale

Cabify says 70% of their vehicles in Barcelona already have an ECO or 0 emissions badge, but only 1% are at least 4.9 meters long.

The company has requested authorization to use all its licenses and will gradually update its fleet in accordance with the regulations, but Dorado warns there are not enough new vehicles on the market.

"We've been forced to commit to buying new vehicles because of the regulation, but we will not have them in time because the timeframe it sets is not feasible," Dorado complained.

Ride-hailing companies had until Friday to request authorization to continue operating, after which authorities have three months to assess their applications. Companies have a year to adapt their cars to the new regulation, which is what Cabify has opted for.

Bolt's new bumpers

Bolt, on the other hand, has begun to install bumpers on vehicles to make them comply with the 4.9-meter-long requirement. 

New bumper on Bolt vehicles to comply with Catalonia's ride-hailing regulation
New bumper on Bolt vehicles to comply with Catalonia's ride-hailing regulation / Maria Asmarat

"This isn't only a bumper," they read. "It's the new regulation that requires ride-hailing vehicles to be 4.9 meters long."

"The regulation is trying to annihilate the sector with ridiculous measures," Georges told the Catalan News Agency. "So in the face of ridiculous measures, we've also found ridiculous solutions."

According to Bolt, the government's new measure, which was backed by Esquerra, Junts, the Socialists, En Comú Podem and CUP, was negotiated with "the most radical part" of the taxi sector

Barcelona's taxi sector is notoriously strong, having brought Uber to its knees in Europe thanks to a ruling stating the company was a transport service and not only a platform and therefore subject to the same regulations as other service providers. 

Check out our Filling the Sink podcast episode from June 2021 to learn more.