Taxis – what needs to change

As you might have gathered from some of my recent posts, I’m starting to feel a great deal amount of hatred towards taxis. I tweeted the other day that if I were a serial killer I would target taxi drivers and leave them with a bell rammed down their throat and a seat post up their arse. Mind you, I previously said my victims would be people with those little wheelie suitcases and you’d find their bodies with the handle rammed up their arse. Don’t worry, I have no intention of being a serial killer or killing anyone. In fact, my goal is to stay alive and not become a statistic.

I’ve yet to have a positive encounter with a taxi driver while cycling alongside them and I feel that I’m more likely to be killed by one of these death traps on wheels than I am by a lorry. There’s a huge campaign at the moment geared towards lorry & cyclist safety – personally, I follow the method of never cycling down either side of a lorry and when stopping behind one, positioning myself so I can see the drivers mirrors. The driver still may not be ale to see me as I’m a little cyclist, but I stand a much better chance than if I were in a blind spot. I’ve not had any negative lorry encounters yet, I keep back and if it’s safe for me to do so I’ll get out of their way so they can pass me.

Instead of focusing on lorries, I feel cycle safety campaigns need to be focusing more on taxis and this includes changing the way that taxis are allowed to operate. I don’t think it’s safe for them to be able to pick up & drop off wherever as this will inevitably mean crossing a cycle lane. Even if the driver remembers to signal before their manoeuvre, it still means that a cyclist in the lane will be forced to stop or to join the traffic, this is particularly dangerous in those ‘against the flow’ cycle lanes.

So my first proposal:

taxipoint

Where there is a cycle lane, there should be clearly marked and designated taxi hailing areas. The person wanting a taxi presses a button (like a crossing point) and the light goes on alerting any passing drivers that someone wants a taxi. At the same time, a flashing warning light is activated warning cyclists that there will be a pedestrian crossing and a door being opened. Like a crossing, this will have a timer. This way, a taxi never crosses suddenly into a cycle lane and a cyclist is alerted to the presence of a pedestrian and door opening. This allows them to stop or make a decision about entering traffic. Taxis are bigger than cyclists so I think it’s reasonable to feel that cars will be more likely be able to avoid hitting a stopping taxi than a suddenly emerging cyclist. This obviously won’t work on every road and I haven’t quite figured out the reverse, but anyone who has cycled through the West End or They City will have noticed the hundreds and hundreds of empty taxis cruising for business vs the hand full of taxis outside of the West End or The City.

Another issue is taxis in bus lanes. I really don’t understand why taxis are permitted in bus lanes, so I think that bus lanes should remain shared spaces for buses, cyclists and motorcyclists keeping us all safely away from cars. Some bus drivers could learn to be a bit more patient but on the whole, I think buses are better at dealing with cyclists and motorcycles than taxis are. Perhaps mark the lanes a bit better. So my second proposal is no more taxis in bus lanes and taxis are not permitted to cross into bus lanes during operational hours (like cars).

Thirdly, taxis are no longer allowed to make random u-turns. I think even car drivers will agree with this one. If taxis pick up someone needing to go in the opposite direction then they must follow the road layout and make their turn when the road allows them to.

Basically, taxis should not be permitted any special favours and be treated like the rest of traffic.

Fourthly, there will be a maximum number of taxis permitted to be parked outside theatres. Theatres are nothing like train stations, it is not appropriate for the sheer number of taxis to be parked in Seven Dials on a Friday night waiting for people coming out of the Cambridge Theatre. It’s actually pretty amusing seeing zero taxis on a Monday night, maybe about five Tues – Thurs then come Friday it’s like every taxi in London is called to Seven Dials for some mysterious mating ritual. This will probably piss of taxi drivers the most, but there must be enough tourists for them to rip off needing taxis to justify the sheer number of them so they’ll find business.

My final proposals are nothing to do with infrastructure, they’re more to do with the way black cabs operate. Getting into a black cab, the fare is anyone’s guess. Black cabs rely on people not knowing the city so they can take people on the long route, down side roads and back when a more direct route would be more appropriate but would be cheaper. So…

  1. As with the underground, central London will be zoned and priced accordingly (perhaps with peak & off-peak hours).
  2. Upon entering the cab, the zones will be displayed and prices displayed clearly. As with the tube, there will be ‘in zone’ prices (travelling just in zone 1) and fares for travelling across zones (zones 1 – 2 for example).
  3. All taxis must be fitted with contactless card payment methods.
  4. Every five years a taxi driver must take a practical & theory test to check that their driving skills are up to standard. If a taxi is involved in an accident with a cyclist, pedestrian or any other vehicle, then the taxi driver must pass a practical and theory test before being allowed to resume work (even if cleared by police).

Finally, road priority should be pedestrians, joggers, cyclists, motorcyclists, buses and finally cars. More people commute on two than four 😉 and according to Time Out, the commuting stats are 48% tube, 16% train, 10% bus, 10% walk, 9% cycle and only 7% by car.

I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts about taxis as times goes on and hopefully I won’t be targetted for this post. I know there are issues with my proposals and that they’re probably not really sensible solutions. For my part as a cyclist, I do my best to stay clear of roads altogether but where they’re unavoidable I follow the Highway Code and do my best to negotiate unfamiliar roads without causing too much disruption.

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