Football tutorials. Childrens’ Magical Tours. Advice for government. This is what London cabbies are all about. Topics like this are lurking in my list of unblogged blogs left over from the Europe trip — so over the next few days I am going to try to get them posted.
One of the joys of being in London for 7+ weeks was engaging London cabs and London cabbies. In particular I kept thinking about why we don’t have these kinds of cabs in North America, especially Vancouver. Instead we have imported those unfortunate ‘cut off at the top’ red buses which really don’t work in terms of responding to Vancouver’s emerging “brand” as not a little bit of England.
First of all, I am a regular cab user in Vancouver — sometimes it just isn’t Vespa weather. And I appreciate our cabs — we have a Yellow Cab account and despite some frustrations I find the cab drivers fun to talk to (if we are jointly in a talkative mood) and competent professional drivers. But — there are shortcomings to our cab system which the London cabs have sorted out:
1. The typical and official London Cab (don’t get them going on mini-cabs) are very easy to enter and exit no matter what one’s various aches and pains might be — and they hold 4 people very easily plus lots of luggage.
2. The London cab has solved the accessibility issue — no need to have vans that have difficult to close doors and are not easy on gas. London cabs have a ramp that is cleverly designed to flip to the exterior and welcome the wheelchair or the heavy rolling bag.
3. I also like the way you can choose to engage or not — when the red light is on, it means (if memory serves me correctly) that the driver cannot hear your conversation. If it is off, he or she can. So there is an easy way to manage the conversation issue.
4. There are generally lots of cabs. We got caught out a couple of times — of course always when you are late for Swan Lake at the Royal Albert Hall. Cabs seem to be the majority of cars on the road partly due to the congestion fee (since 2005) where it is costs 8 pounds for private vehicles to drive within the congestion zone. I asked quite a few cabbies whether this had helped traffic movement. They are not united in their opinions — some said not at all. Others said quite a bit. But they were all agreed that the real problem was actually streets being dug up, number of lanes narrowed and so on. That being said, I can’t imagine that less traffic hasn’t had a positive effect on air quality at the very least.
5. There are quite a few signs inside the cabs to keep you amused. The best ones hide under the 3rd and 4th seats that face backwards. This one is my favourite.
6. But the cabbies themselves also do great things. Firstly, they give tutorials on football and who the best teams are. This is quite useful for someone like me who doesn’t follow sports (Who is Wayne Gretsky???) but wants to appear like a knowledgeable Canadian in the UK. Secondly, with the chatty ones (and they were surprisngly few and far between) you can find out a lot about British life — their families, their problems and of course the government. They like to complain about the government.
Another ‘under the seat’ piece of info is about the Children’s Magical tour — a convoy of cabs take children with life-threatening illnesses to Disneyworld Paris every year.
How great is that! Hats off to the London cabbies.