Street Battles Cabs and Rickshaws Fight for Oktoberfest Fares

Security restrictions that mean cabs and rickshaw taxis cannot tout for business at the Oktoberfest's front door have led to confused customers, lower profits and new parking zones. It has also meant a war of insults and roadside conflicts between motorized taxis and their pedal powered counterparts.

Parking restrictions: A policeman turns a taxi away from the no-go security zone around the Oktoberfest in Munich this year.

Parking restrictions: A policeman turns a taxi away from the no-go security zone around the Oktoberfest in Munich this year.

There is a battle for territory going on during the Oktoberfest this year and it has nothing to do with drunks falling into the reserved seating in the beer tents. Rather it is part of the growing conflict between Munich's taxi drivers and the bicycle rickshaws that tout for custom outside the grounds at the annual folk festival. After all being brought home by a sober driver after sampling the alcoholic delights of the Oktoberfest is almost part of the tradition.

But this year, increased security around the festival has seen both taxis and bicycle rickshaws restricted to certain areas as well as unable to pick up, or drop off, passengers around the front entrance of the festival grounds.

The rickshaws have been granted three legal parking places around the Oktoberfest. However there are an estimated 100 rickshaws working the festival. If the police see them standing still anywhere else, they are moved on. "It's total stress for us," one of the rickshaw drovers told the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung. "We are continuously chased off." And so, they say, they have no alternative but to cycle slowly around and around the grounds. "The situation is very unsatisfactory for us," Christian Dian, who runs the company München Rikscha, told the newspaper.

Traffic Danger Increases

Meanwhile the city's taxi drivers are not happy with the situation either. Although they have had many more legal parking spots allocated to them by the city than the rickshaw cabs, they say that these are not in the right spots. The taxi drivers say they end up trapped in traffic, with pedestrians making their way between cars to get to public transport or customers being confused and getting into cars at the end of the taxi queue rather than at the front.

The result is a general increase in dangerous traffic. Both groups believe the other acts aggressively toward them on the road, using tactics such as horn blowing or cutting off lanes and in the case of the cyclists, traveling slowly in front of the cabs, thereby slowing them down to a snail's pace. "Something bad will happen," a taxi driver who only wished to be known as Andi told the Süddeutsche Zeitung. "They just do what they like," said another cabbie named Patrick, adding that the rickshaw drivers were often unlicensed, had built their own vehicles and were overcharging their fares.

"When there is interaction, then it is usually in the form of insults," agreed rickshaw driver Manuel, who also preferred to remain anonymous and who has been plying his trade at the Oktoberfest for two years now. Manuel also thought that new rules forbidding rickshaws from picking up customers at the Oktoberfest entrance were due to lobbying by taxi drivers.

Loss of Profits

In fact, the conflict is a historical one. In 2009, the cycle rickshaws were allowed to head to the front entrance whilst taxis had to remain two blocks away for security reasons. Which meant that last year Munich taxi drivers were already accusing their pedal powered counterparts of irresponsibility, unlicensed driving and of working under the counter. Worst of all, the cabbies said, the rickshaw taxis were stealing their customers because inebriated patrons stumbling out of the grounds didn't want to walk two blocks to get to a car. Instead they simply jumped into a rickshaw.

The police have noticed the conflict, a spokesperson for the local constabulary said, but they have preferred to stay out of it. For them the priority is keeping both taxis and cycle rickshaws out of the security zone and seeing them abide by their allotted parking zones.

While the two groups continue to trade insults and animosity, one thing has become clear. The new restrictions are resulting in a loss of profits for everyone. One taxi driver reported a 50 percent loss in profits compared to the previous year's Oktoberfest business, adding that "people don't know where to find the taxis." And a rickshaw driver counted a 35 percent loss in profits compared to 2009, noting that when many Oktoberfest visitors were unable to find a ride right outside the exit, they would then make their way to public transport.

cis with wires


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