Black Cabs: Solving the Challenge of Leaving Unprotected Incumbents by the Wayside

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The London rain has followed me back to Napa, and so have my thoughts on London and the black cabs. The popularity of Uber has an inverse relationship to that of the black cab, and the iconic taxis are losing ground. Do they face extinction?

Last week I asked to hear from the fans of London’s black cabs and have since realized I can include myself in the fandom. So on a drizzly walk I found myself thinking: can London be the city that solves the challenge of leaving unprotected incumbents by the wayside?

London has always served as a crucible for social change in the Western World. It was London after all that propelled the Beatles, mod fashion, and even the first mp3 player and web browser into the stratosphere! And yet it’s also the city of Buckingham Palace and a vestigial but beloved monarchy. London is the city that protects its culture even as it gives way to and eventually embraces change and innovation.

Here I am, an American with the limited cultural history that comes with that compared to Britain, an avid promoter and provoker of the sharing economy, now in search of creative solutions to support London’s black cabs. (To say nothing of my strong bent toward environmental preservation) But am I really the only one who would hate to lose this cultural institution?

The Movement(s) to Save London’s Black Cabs

Apparently I’m not. A quick Google search reveals a multitude of efforts to preserve the black cabs, as well as cabbies taking matters into their own hands with blockades and “go slow” protests.

Save our Black Taxis and Save the London Black Cab are two groups on Facebook both fighting to raise awareness for their cause, with thousands of members between them. The hashtag #savetaxis reveals the strong presence of this sentiment on Twitter, beyond just the Twitter account. Scheduled protests by passengers and drivers alike have been ongoing for months, many of them protesting what they consider a failure by Transport for London (TfL) to protect these London icons.

An idea from your rogue instigator

As I finished my walk in the rain with my dog, I wondered about bus lanes. Would cabs have a fighting chance if they were allowed to share those bus lanes? Opening the bus lanes to black cabs would give them the edge in term of speed, providing passengers with an incentive to choose them over Uber or other similarly priced car services. Passengers are then more likely to benefit from the charm and expertise of a black cab driver.

Then again, how would the bus companies react ? Would it negatively impact public transport or the environment?

As instigators, how can we contribute similar ideas, and amplify existing efforts from around the world?

What do you think?

Image credit: Save Our Black Taxis