With Uber and Cabify back in Barcelona, are taxis headed for a new standoff?

Cab drivers forced ride hailing apps out of the city in 2019 — this time, keeping the upper hand could be harder

Taxis join a slow drive protest in Barcelona (by Lluís Sibils)
Taxis join a slow drive protest in Barcelona (by Lluís Sibils) / Alan Rui z Terol

Alan Rui z Terol | Barcelona

June 5, 2021 12:09 PM

Two years ago, when Uber and Cabify suspended their services in Barcelona following a string of new regulations brought about by a week-long taxi strike, ride hailing companies conceded defeat.

"Taxis have won," said Josep Maria Goñi, the then-president of the Unauto VTC association.

But in March 2019, barely a month after saying it would leave Barcelona, the Spanish company Cabify resumed its services, promising it would abide by the new legal conditions while continuing to provide its own fleet of cars and operate under VTC licenses.

In March 2021, it was Uber’s turn to come back. But the US-based company took a different approach: instead of hiring its own drivers, it would let taxis use its software at no cost in a show of "good faith". 

With the two companies back in operation, and the vaccination campaign stoking hopes of a return to normality, the taxi sector resumed mobilizations against the ride hailing apps, which they describe as an "existential threat".

Later in March, hundreds of cab drivers protested in a slow drive through the city, which taxi associations described as "historic" and even "more massive than the 2019 strike." They repeated the action on May 20, disrupting traffic in the center of Barcelona to then meet with local authorities at the city hall.