PARIS -- Taxi drivers protesting new competition from companies like Uber and a new tax undermined their own cause with a Monday attack on an Uber car outside Paris, according to Renaud Visage, one of the passengers.
"Attacking cars blindly is not smart. It's not a good PR move," Visage, chief technology officer of Eventbrite, said in an interview with CNET a few hours after the attack. The next time Visage is returning from the Paris airport to his home, he will take an Uber car, not a taxi, he said.
"It was pretty intense," Visage said of the attack. Things could have been worse, though. Some passengers in other cars were forced out of their cars onto the side of the road, he said.
The attackers broke a window and slashed a tire of the Uber car, he and fellow traveler Kat Borlongan said. The glass from the window cut both their hands, he said.
The attack came during a taxi driver protest against new taxes and against car services, such as Uber, LeCab, SnapCar, and Allocab, that let people flag cars promptly with smartphone apps. The taxi lobby won a major victory in December, with a rule that started January 1 requiring a minimum 15-minute wait before an Uber-like service can actually pick up a passenger.
Donna Constance-Moss, a Welsh woman traveling via Uber Paris with her 1-year-old and 13-year-old children, also was a target. "Nice start to our trip to Disney...Egged and floured by idiots who opened door to get to them," she said on Twitter, then added, "No sympathy for the protesters, my children and I were terrified. Will def be using pre booked taxis again just to piss them off!"
The police in attendance also came in for scorn. "Police were useless. Just stood watching while we fought them off. Can't understand how violence to children does not warrant arrest," she said.
Visage said about seven people attacked the Uber car at a roadblock taxi drivers had set up near Charles de Gaulle airport on the entrance to the highway to Paris, he said, squeezing four lanes of traffic down to one. "I think they'd done that to filter the traffic and target particular vehicles," he said.
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"When everything happened, our driver stayed calm. He managed to go through everything without breaking down. It must have been even more stressful for him than us," Visage said. "He managed to drive through it. He had to pull over to change the tire."
The pair had taken Uber because they couldn't get an ordinary taxi during the strike, he said. The driver offered "very good service" even before the attack, tracking them down by phone and in the terminal. After the attack, Uber's general manager sent a text message offering an apology for what happened.
That favorable opinion stands in stark contrast to the appearance the Parisian taxi drivers showed Monday.
"I know there are issues about how much it costs to become a taxi driver, and they want to protect themselves, but this is not the way to go," Visage said. Paris is a major tourist destination, and "it gives a very bad image for France and for Paris."
Update, 8:39 a.m. PT: Added comment from Donna Constance-Moss.