By Lisa Flueckiger, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Taxi drivers in Rio de Janeiro protested against transport organization app Uber, closing off streets in Centro and the Aterro de Flamengo this morning (July 24th). As a reaction, Uber offered free rides to its user until up to R$50.
The taxi drivers started their protest in the early morning hours, driving from several locations in town in direction of the Aterro do Flamengo, creating traffic problems in Centro. Avenida Presidente Vargas had to be closed off at one of the busiest hours of the day.
Around 300,000 taxis are expected to protest along the Aterro do Flamengo during the morning. At 10AM the taxi drivers will hold a meeting with several officials, including two politicians who already tried to prohibit Uber in parliament.
“The event is directed against all types of transport means considered as piratery, particularly the Uber app,” José Marcos Bezerra, President of the Regional Council of Taxis in Rio state, told O Globo.
“We can not allow amateurs to do a service that should be provided by professionals,” André de Oliveira of the Association of Assistance to Taxi Drivers, added.
The taxi drivers ask the authorities for actions against clandestine transportation in general, but particular against Uber, on which users can order a ride online from registered drivers for a similar price to the taxis. The drivers are especially upset that Uber drivers don’t have to follow the same regulations, like proper licenses, checks on the service and taxes.
Uber reacted in its own way to the protest, offering its users free rides of up to R$50 today until 7PM, stating “We know that today will be a difficult day for getting around and to not let the Carioca be without any options today, everyone can use Uber to anywhere in the city for free.”
“Our total focus is on the user, and we aim to improve mobility in the city. Therefore, we believe that this Friday is a good opportunity to show this to the public,” Fabio Sabba, Uber’s spokesperson, told O Globo. He continued to explain that with the code “RIONAOPARA” users will get two free rides today until 7PM.
“We want to start the debate, get more people to know the service and show that we are a transportation alternative in town,” Sabba explained.