Saturday 6 November 2010

Taxi Drivers

Taxi Driver

A bad week for me commuting (what with the threat to kill me on Thursday morning and being forced to the side of the road at a pinchpoint Friday morning) was rounded off with this 'advice' from a black cab driver to keep to the side of the road because 'my cab is harder than you are.'  The advice was delivered after he had come shockingly close to knocking me off my bike.

I have to beware of course of generalisations - I once sat next to a charming cab driver at a wedding and they always used to be friendly enough to me as a fare in the days when I used to use them.   Having said that I have been on the roads of London long enough to know that a substantial proportion drive with an arrogant assumption of entitlement to the road.  A lot have no respect whatever for red traffic lights and give woefully inadequate space to cyclists (whom many, like the one above, just appear to loathe).

Here is one cutting me up on Constitution Hill, a road which is barred to all other commercial vehicles (including as a University friend of mine once found to his cost, motorcycle despatch riders).
During my walk down the Strand on Thursday to visit Charing Cross Police Station I noticed that almost every vehicle in the substantial traffic jam was a Black Cab.

I suppose it is no surprise they feel an unusual sense of entitlement.  They are entitled to enter central London without paying a Congestion Charge; they are entitled to use bus lanes (including that famous one on the M4) whether carrying a fare or merely looking for one, they get free parking at numerous Central London locations that would cost anyone else several pounds an hour to get their breakfast, tea or whatever.  Black cabbies run profitable businesses.  So why on earth do they get all this direct and indirect subsidy from us?  Would be nothing to do with the frequency with which taxi fares appear on politicians' expenses claims would it?  Personally I do not buy the 'public transport' argument and am surprised that anybody does.  It is personalised transport on an even less efficient basis than private car use.

I know; this blog is starting to turn into a rant, but after a hard week I am feeling despondent.  I am sure it is nothing that a bit of bike riding won't put right.


  1. Taxis are a huge problem. In Manchester I'd estimate 2% of cars are taxis but they account for 50% of the near-misses, aggression and dangerous behaviour I encounter whilst cycling. I do my absolute best to avoid using them because I don't want to fund a group containing so many dangerous extremists.

  2. Interesting, I'd say just over 50% of the incidents I've had commuting in London have involved taxis. Last week, a taxi undertook me at speed (I was in primary position in RH lane as intended to turn right) within millimeters of my left elblow. I caught up with him (it wasn't difficult, he joined a queue of traffic a few metres on) and gave him some advice on his driving. He did not have much to say in response. People drive in such ways, I think, because they think they can get away quickly, anonymously and with impunity. If drivers become aware of penalties and consequences they might change their behaviour. Operation Crackdown in Sussex is a good initiative. But what I think would be worth trying is a hard hitting television spot during the ad breaks similar to the ones about speeding (featuring a girl that had been run over slowly recovering from her injuries in reverse sequence). A selection of scenes ranging from deliberate buzzing and cutting up, tailgating and verbal abuse to physical assault and the use of the car as a lethal weapon. This unprovoked violence on cyclists is a large and definite phenomenon which has for too long gone unaddressed because of the lack of statistics to show it exists. I think an ad could be a useful way of holding up a mirror to society to say 'this is how we are behaving towards our most vulnerable road users'.

  3. I bike commute in Portland, Oregon ... about 17 miles a day. Love it. I was particularly taken by your "I am sure it is nothing that a bit of bike riding won't put right" comment. Having never put this feeling into words myself, I say thanks! Nothing like a nice ride to clear my head. In fact, this morning on my way in I realized how much I was deep in thought about ... well, just about everything. The rain didn't bother me a bit.


  4. During the run up to the 2007 TDF start in london i had to use London roads and found that "Taxidrivers(Childish,petulant,wheelgrippers)" accounted for most of my problems. They were annoying so whenever an occupied Taxi caused me a problem i would catch it up and ask the driver in a voice that the "Paying occupant" could hear "Are you trying to impress your passenger or "piss them off"? Do you realise they may also ride a bike and if so , have you improved your chance of a Tip or have you "Pissed them off?" By the way when was the last time you were the cause of an accident and did it delay your "Fare" or did they walk off without paying?"
    Most passengers listened in and occasionally the cab would try to catch up to put out their "two penny worth" since most of these "gormless prats" were struck dumb by not only being caught but left in the traffic.

    Taxi operators lack the ability to behave as a human being and you are right they rely on their anominity to escape retribution !

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  6. I was going to attempt a spirited defence of cab-driving standards but my heart's not really in it. So I'll resort to pedantry.

    "They are entitled to enter central London without paying a Congestion Charge; they are entitled to use bus lanes (including that famous one on the M4) whether carrying a fare or not, they get free parking at numerous central London locations that would cost anyone else several pounds an hour. Reputedly Black cabbies run very profitable businesses (you could try the maths on what they charge for short rides and factor in their sense of entitlement to a tip, which surely appears on their tax self-assessments)."

    1)They don't pay the CC because they're part of London's public transport system.

    2)They're entitled to use some bus lanes, but only when carrying a passenger or plying for hire. They could be carrying a fare-paying parcel(it happens)and not be entitled to use a bus lane.

    3)There is no "free parking". There are a very few resting ranks, but taxi ranks are there for working taxis and you run the risk of a substantial fine by abusing them.

    4)To extrapolate from the £5 you paid for a five-minute trip to the idea that cab drivers are paid £60 an hour is as absurd as me looking at your £150 an hour billing and assuming that you're making a quarter of a mill a year.

    Great blog, just a tad spittle-flecked today.

    (Couple of typos in the first try. Shouldn't I be able to edit my comments?)

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  9. I had a little run in with a minicab driver the other day. Here is my account of the incident on reddit: