Taxis take part in ‘slow drive’ to protest Uber’s ‘illegal' return to Barcelona

Hundreds take part in protest while 10,000 people have opened Uber app in just two days

A Barcelona taxi driver wearing a facemask (by Albert Cadanet)
A Barcelona taxi driver wearing a facemask (by Albert Cadanet) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

March 18, 2021 12:39 PM

Taxi drivers protested against Uber’s return to Barcelona on Thursday. The American firm came back on 16 March, with 350 drivers, following a two-year absence from working in the city.

Elite Taxi, a group that represents taxi drivers and claims to have the support of 4,000 cars, has spoken out against Uber’s “illegal” return, their spokesperson Tito Álvarez calling Uber’s 350 drivers “traitors” and promising to “reject them”. 

The demonstration on March 18 started at Barcelona’s Plaça Espanya with the aim to head to the Catalan Parliament building. Cars blocked roads and disrupted transport by driving very slowly en masse. 

 On route, cars stopped outside the office of the main Catalan business association, the Foment del Treball Nacional on Via Laietana. Protesters made noise and threw paper at the building to demonstrate “that we are prepared to fight”.

 A tweet posted by Elite Taxi read:

 “We are starting at the Venetian towers and heading towards the Catalan parliament, against  Uber’s illegal return and the connivance shown by organizations such as Foment del Treball, where our society’s precariousness begins.” 



The history of Uber in Barcelona

This is yet another event in a long-standing campaign of cabs warring with a company they fear will render them obsolete. 

It is thought that this protest is the largest held by taxi drivers since January 2019, which saw six days of unrest that left one of the city’s main avenues blockaded as well as taxi drivers clashing with police and vandalizing ridesharing vehicles. 

This response came after the Catalan government proposed to pass a law forcing Cabify and Uber users to book their rides at least 15 minutes in advance. Taxi drivers saw it as insufficient and demanded a longer booking period. The protests finally stopped once the Catalan government agreed to extend this time to a 1-hour-minimum advance which pushed Uber and Cabify to stop offering their services in Barcelona. 

Since Uber announced it’s return to Barcelona on March 16, however, 10,000 people have opened the app in just its first two days back. The company also confirmed that half a million of the city’s residents already have the app installed on their phone.