For locked-down Parisians, taxis are a ticket to freedom
Boris Czajka, a 32-year-old driver with a Paris ride-hailing service, now has a new category of clients because of the COVID-19 pandemic: people who use taxis as a clandestine way to break curfew.
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With people barred from leaving home between 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. except for essential business, some have found that by taking a taxi during curfew, they can dodge police and the 135 euro ($163) fines they can impose on rule-breakers.
"Lots of people believe a ride-sharing car or taxi is more discreet," Czajka, at the wheel of his black BMW saloon, said as he drove a fare south from the centre of Paris after dark.
Accounts from taxi drivers and passengers in Paris suggested that people breaking curfew were more likely to be caught if they were on public transport than if they were in a taxi. Hailing a ride makes economic sense because a taxi fare will work out less than the fine.
Speaking anonymously because she was discussing breaking the rules, one taxi passenger said she used cabs to visit her boyfriend twice a week.
"It's a matter of preserving myself emotionally and mentally," said the passenger, an American working in Paris.
"In times like these we must make choices and, for me, the choice is to take a ride-share car after work, from time to time."
Taxi drivers benefit too. Their usual night-time clientele, people heading home from bars and restaurants, has evaporated because such places are shut.
"It brings us work," another taxi driver, who gave his name as Soufiane, said of the curfew-breaking passengers.
"They know that they are 'outlaws' as you might say, but they go to have a drink at a colleague or a friend's place because they are fed up with the curfew," he said.