Controversial ride-hailing app Uber launches in Cologne

Cologne has become the fifth city in Germany to offer ride-hailing services by Uber.

Controversial ride-hailing app Uber launches in Cologne
Photo: DPA

It comes after nationwide protests by taxi drivers against government plans that would make it easier for services such as Uber to operate in the country.

Uber, which is already available in Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt and Düsseldorf, operates by letting users book and pay for a ride via a smartphone app. It is typically cheaper than traditional taxi services.

The US firm said that last year, mobile phone users in Cologne tried to order a ride via the app 300,000 times. During the recent Carnival season, 100,000 people tried to use Uber. That signalled to the company that the service was in demand.

Uber launched in the western German city on Thursday. Christoph Weigler, head of Uber Germany, said there was huge business potential in Cologne.

SEE ALSO: German taxis stage nationwide protests against Uber

Wiegel said “Uber offers all Cologne residents as well as tourists and business people visiting the cathedral city another attractive option” when they are choosing between public transport, taxi and other car sharing offers, reported local news site

“We want to convince even more people to do without their own car more often,” he added.

Those looking for an Uber ride enter the desired destination via the UberX app. Before the booking, the user is shown the fare that the route will cost, regardless of travel time or traffic jams.

In addition, the customer sees the driver's profile with photo, licence plate and service evaluation before the journey begins. At the end of the journey, payment is made by card or Paypal. That's in contrast to traditional taxi services where you hand cash or a card over to the driver.

Strict requirements

Uber has operated in Germany since 2014 but there has been resistance to the company's expansion.

Drivers working for Uber must meet strict requirements and they need a special permit to operate.

The government has proposed relaxing those restrictions. It would mean car-services such as Uber and Mola, which have been classified as chauffeured rental car services, would no longer have the obligation to return to their original starting point where they picked up a customer.

However, the taxi industry has urged authorities to shelve the reforms, saying it would decimate the livelihoods of taxi drivers.

A taxi driver at a protest on Wednesday with 'Uber victim' on the cab. Photo: DPA

The German Taxi and Rental Car Association (BZP) fears that these services would be free to decide when and where to make lucrative trips – such as to the airport, where they could also wait for new clients. In contrast, taxis have a legal duty to respond to the call of all clients  – they must therefore cover all needs around the clock, whether profitable or not.

On Wednesday, the BZP called on drivers in around 30 cities to protest plans to liberalize the taxi market.

The largest action took place in Berlin where around 5,000 taxis drove at walking speed from three starting points – Tegel Airport, Olympisches Dorf and Ostbahnhof – to the Brandenburg Gate, reported the Berliner Morgenpost.

SEE ALSO: Rosenmontag Carnival celebrations go ahead despite storms

After the Uber launch in Cologne, taxi representatives underpinned their criticism. Dennis Klusmeier, vice chairman of the North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) Taxi Association, appealed to authorities to check compliance with existing regulations.

In Düsseldorf, where Uber has been offering its services since autumn 2018, the taxi market has suffered losses, according to Klusmeier.

Weigler, however, wants to continue the dialogue in order to smooth over the dispute.

“Prejudices can be overcome through conversations,” he said. The manager said he is confident that many taxi drivers will also be partners with Uber in Cologne.

Uber has run into court difficulties in Germany in recent years. In March 2015 the Frankfurt regional court imposed an injunction on Uber and its ride-sharing service UberPop throughout Germany.

The ruling means Uber can be fined for violation of local transport laws if it uses drivers who are not licensed by the state in order to cut costs.

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Snobs, beaches and drunks – 5 things this joke map teaches us about France

A popular joke 'map' of France has once again been widely shared on social media, sparking endless jokes at the expense of certain regions of France.

Snobs, beaches and drunks - 5 things this joke map teaches us about France
Image AFP/
But while the map – created by – is clearly intended to be comic, it teaches us some important points about France’s regional divides, local stereotypes and in-jokes.

Here are some of the key points.
1. Everyone hates Parisians
The map is purportedly France as seen through the eyes of Parisians, and contains a series of snobbish and rude generalisations about every part of France that is not maison (home) in the capital and its surroundings. The great majority of the country is labelled simply as paysans (peasants).
The general stereotype about Parisians is that they are snobs, rudely judging the rest of the country which they regard as backwards and full of ploucs (yokels) apart from small areas which make nice holiday destinations.
Like all sweeping generalisations, this is true of some people and very much not of others, but one of the few things that can unite people from all areas of France is how much they hate les parigots têtes de veaux (a colloquialism that very roughly translates as ‘asshole Parisians’)
2. Staycations rule
Even before Covid-related travel restrictions, holidaying within France was the norm for many French people.
As the map shows, Parisians regard the southern and western coastlines as simply plages (beaches) which they decamp to for at least a month in July or August. In the height of summer French cities tend to empty out (apart from tourists) as locals head to the seaside or the countryside.
In winter the Pyrenees and Alps are popular ski destinations.
3. Northerners like a drink
There is a very widespread stereotype, although not really backed up by evidence, that the people of Normandy, Brittany and the Nord area like a drink or two. Many suggest this is to cope with the weather, which does tend to be rainier than the rest of France (although has plenty of sunshine too).
Official health data doesn’t really back this up, as none of these areas show a significantly greater than average rate of daily drinkers, although Nord does hold the sad record for the highest rate of people dying from alcohol-related liver disease.
What’s certainly true is that Brittany and Normandy are cider country, with delicious locally-produced ciders on sale everywhere, well worth a try if you are visiting.
4. Poverty
The map labels the north eastern corner of France as simply pauvres – the poor.
The north east of the country was once France’s industrial and coal-mining heartland, and as traditional industries have declined there are indeed pockets of extreme poverty and high unemployment. The novel The End of Eddy, telling the story of novelist Edouard Louis’ childhood in a struggling small town near Amiens, lays out the social problems of such areas in stark detail.
However poverty is not just confined to one corner of France and the département that records the highest levels of deprivation is actually Seine-Saint-Denis in the Paris suburbs.
5. Southern prejudice
According to the map, those from the south are either branleurs (slackers) or menteurs (liars). 
This isn’t true, obviously, there are many lovely, hard-working and truthful people in southern France, but the persistent stereotype is that they are lazy – maybe because it’s too hot to do much work – and slightly shifty.
Even people who aren’t actually rude about southerners can be pretty patronising, as shown when south west native Jean Castex became the prime minister in summer 2020. 
Castex has a noticeable south west accent which sparked much comment from the Paris-based media and political classes, with comments ranging from the patronising – “I love his accent, I feel like I’m on holiday” – to the very patronising – “that accent is a bit rugby” (a reference to the fact that TV rugby commentators often come from France’s rugby heartlands in the south west).
In his first year as PM, Castex has undertaken a dizzying schedule of appointments around the four corners of France, so hopefully the lazy myth can now be put to bed.
And anyone tempted to take the piss out of his accent – glottophobie (accent prejudice) is now a crime in France.
For more maps that reflect France, head to