May 29, 2012
Don't expect to get a cab during the London Olympics.
Seems they'll be otherwise occupied.
At least two out of every five of London’s licensed taxi cab drivers won’t pick up passengers during the games to protest restrictions on 109 miles of the city's roads.
The 23,200 black taxis, a selling feature of London's bid to the International Olympic Committee, have since been told that they will face penalties for using the special throughways, known as the Olympic Route Network.
“I’m not working during the games,” said Barry Sandler, a London cab driver, who told Bloomberg:
“The black cab is an icon of London and we’re not really a part (The Olympics) of it.”
They’ve earned that right.
A hackney, or later a black cab, is a carriage for hire and goes back to at least 1621.
Electric hackney carriages made their first appearance in 1901.
The drivers have one the toughest jobs in the world:
The virtually impossible feat of navigating London, since, for starters, they have to know 25,000 streets within a six-mile radius of Charing Cross.
Thank The Knowledge, the brutal test they have to pass to get their All London license (also known as the "Green Badge"), which prepares them to:
Know every street in London.
Every landmark, from Lord Nelson's statue, Churchill's War Room to Hyde Park Corner.
And be civil to their passengers, which is not always easy:
"Yes, I know the route, sir."
What makes this harder is that London isn't set up on a grid, like New York City.
It takes about three years' study to pass the test — most of it spent driving around in unpleasant weather on a scooter, poring over rain-soaked maps.
So how can any one person know every street in London?
According to a University College London study, Hansom cab drivers have a larger hippocampus, the part of the brain that is associated with navigation in birds and animals.
And if they didn't start out with a larger than average hippocampus, they grew one.
I think if they don't want to work the Olympics, they shouldn't.
But then again I don't have a larger hippocampus.