The Grauniad Bike Blog asks, “why are taxis the king of the road when they carry so few passengers?” That is, the obvious question that most people in London have been asking for some time, why, given that taxis are responsible for at most one in every 200 commuter journeys in London, and given that for the vast majority of these journeys a taxi is a needless and extravagant luxury, and given that taxis are a major contributor to congestion and pollution, why the fuck do we publicly subsidise their industry by allowing them to use the infrastructure that is supposed to be set aside for the transport modes which actually solve those problems? Why, when politicians words are of increasing bus and bike share, do their actions say: we don’t care for bus users, we will penalise your transport choice by creating taxi jams to hold up your bus; we don’t care for cyclists, we will force you to share space with some of the widest, tallest, most polluting, and most erratically driven vehicles on the road?
Well, think, dears. Who uses taxis in London? The people who can afford it. Politicians, for example, and the businessmen that fund their parties. Councillors, mayors, and assemblymen aren’t going to do anything to inconvenience taxi drivers, because that would inconvenience themselves, and perhaps even make the businessman who arranged to buy them lunch late.
And anyway, taxis need to use London’s bus lanes: they need to make sudden swerves into the pavement on a red route, cutting up bicycles and buses, because they need to pick up fares. It’s in the interest of everybody’s safety if they only brake suddenly in one lane, without having to cut across two. But still, they would need to use bus lanes for a third reason, because otherwise it would take them hours to get across town, and then how would they be able to compete in the free and fair market for transport modes?
But one bus lane they don’t need to use is Oxford Street. People who can afford taxis don’t go to Oxford Street. They go to the arcades of Knightsbridge or Kensington; Smithfield boutiques if they’re trendy; or jump on a Eurostar and combine it with lunch. So taxis don’t need to go to Oxford Street for their fares. But do they need to go through Oxford Street in order to avoid the jams on the conventional roads which would amount to an unfair burden on their industry? Well, according to the BBC, taxi drivers are complaining about how long it takes to get down Oxford Street — because of all the buses and pedestrian crossings full of common non-taxi using plebs getting in their way.
Perhaps Westminster council and the London authority could consider doing a little something to help taxi drivers, by banning them from Oxford Street entirely — thus doing their bit to end the end the war on the motorist, and, in the process, creating the city’s first real bus lane.