This post is all about the London Cabbie. The proper name for a black cab is a Hackney Carriage, which is a taxi licensed by the Public Carriage Office. Years ago they were the ‘horses’ of London, and built tall enough, so that men from the city would sit in the back, while not taking off their bowler hats.
The black cabs became iconic in the film Carry On Cabbie, when Hattie Jacques (fed up with Sid James’ obsession with his work) forms a rival female cab firm. The scene where Charles Hawtrey (‘Pintpot’) drives around and around a roundabout was actually filmed in Windsor. He could not drive a moped or car beforehand, and had to take up lessons, before filming.
Although Londoners use cabbies to get around the city, in New York campaigners want horses in Central Park (who suffer stress & injuries) to go to sanctuaries, replaced by beautiful electric car carriages. You can report horse welfare concerns to RSPCA, World Horse Welfare or The British Equine Society.
London’s 21,000 black cab drivers are self-employed and have to pass a difficult test called ‘The Knowledge’, before they get a license. Those in learning who do not yet own their own cab are called ‘butter boys’. The oldest cab driver retired in 2007 age 92 (Alfred had been driving his cab for 70 years). Former London black cab drivers include Labour MP Clive Efford and Fred Housego (who won Mastermind in 1980, with his specialist subject The Tower of London).
- Taxicard for reduced fares for disabled/blind passengers (and carers).
- Green Tomato Cars runs on electric cars (though why it uses leather seats instead of vegan-friendly cars is not sure, for a ‘green taxi service’). Other alternatives are Bolt (an app that sets prices before rides) and Gett (discounts for electric vehicles).
- The London Cabbie’s Quiz Book pits your wits against cabbies whose The Knowledge Test is ‘like having an atlas of London implanted into your brain’. They have to master 320 basic routes and all London’s 40,000 streets & 20,000 landmarks.
Facts about London Cabs
- It’s illegal to shout ‘Taxi!’ to a cab driver. Just hold out your arm.
- Cabbies get tea & food at ‘green shelters’ where cabbies can meet up to refuel (themselves, not the cabs).
- Just 2% of London cabbies are women
- London cabs can be any colour the driver wants.