Ban black cabs in London

The conviction of John Worboys last week on 19 charges of drugging and sexually assaulting women in his black cab demonstrates that licenced taxis are neither safe nor reliable.  It is believed Worboys raped and assaulted 100 women. The authorities have always had an indulgent attitude towards licenced cabbies and this was undoubtedly a factor that encouraged the old bill to overlook complaints about him (alongside institutional sexism). Both licenced and unlicenced cabs are a menace in London. They clog up roads and in my experience black cab drivers number among the most intolerant motorists in the city, with a size-able proportion of them being particularly aggressive towards pedestrians and cyclists. I’ve come across a number of instances of people being hit by black cabs where rather than this being an  ‘accident’, it was deliberate. The licencing system for black cabs encourages this, because cabbies believe the cops will take their side in such matters and that they are untouchable. While the Worboys case illustrates just how indulgent the authorities can be towards licenced cabbies (the cops let him rape for 6 years before doing anything to stop his sex attacks), it is by no means the main reason their trade should be stamped out. London needs a free public transport system and fewer private vehicles on the road.
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – – you know it makes (no) sense!


Comment by K Mail on 2009-03-16 12:07:19 +0000

Completely agree with you. “I don’t need no black cab to get me around/I can take the bus to the other side of town/hey little rich boy take a good look at me!”

Comment by John L. Miller on 2009-03-16 12:37:38 +0000

Still slightly raging from this morning when some cabbie tries to run me over on purpose, TWICE!! Cunt!
I was heading towards work and this black cab zooms past me with inches to spare on long lane. I catch up with him at the red light on charterhouse st at farringdon road going up towards holborn circus, tap on his window (pretty hard to be fair) and tell him to try leaving more than 6 inches when overtaking a bike. to this he mouths off and tries to drive into me while i’m stationary beside him.
the lights change an i take off taking the lane. he chases me and tries to drive me off into the right, again (more at speed this time.) then tries to take a swing at me and get out of the cab going on about how i was “riding in the middle of the road on purpose”
so i’m like, yeah and i’m allowed to read your fucking highway code you prick. blah blah blah, more abuse and he drives off.
all of this time he had two passengers in the back!!
as he fucks off and i head round the corner to work fuming, i start to think about how close he was and actually what he tried to do. actually try and aim for me with his fucking cab!
fuming… i won’t fight unless i have to but fuck me i wish i’d twatted him through his window or just put my bike down and taken him on when he told me to “come on then” and started to get out of his cab.
at the end of the day it is just escalating a situation more than needs be, i was already late for work and there are loads of cameras there. i’d be screwed if i got an assault charge.
would it count as self defense since he effectively tried to attack me with his several tonnes of vehicle?

Comment by Barry Fraser on 2009-03-16 12:43:44 +0000

I was a passenger in a car heading west on Marlebone Road – not far from Regent’s Park when I saw a taxi pull out on a cycle. The bike was adept in his move and missed both the outside lane cars and the taxi. The rider slowed down and spoke to the taxi driver. We were stuck in the outside lane – moving slowly watching this unfold. The bike rode off undertaking the queue in a bus stop, the taxi accelerated hard to the back wheel of the bike. He escaped by a whisker moving back into the main bus lane. He then stopped and spoke to the taxi again. Taxi driver then punched the cyclist in the face. Cyclist again rode off and was caught by a red light. The taxi driver now jumped out of his cab and was keen to continue. Cyclist shook his head and went through the red light.

Comment by K Mail on 2009-03-16 13:54:29 +0000

I totally agree with myself on this. Taxis used to also be used in Belfast to ferry random victims to gruesome deaths and after a close call myself when I was a teenager, I didnt use a cab for close to 20 years when I shared one again in Belfast and again ended up with someone threatening to take me to a paramilitary ditch. I’d rather walk across burning coals for two hours and often have.

Comment by Anne Fleming on 2009-03-16 18:35:47 +0000

A few months ago in Toronto a cabbie assaulted a cyclist and this ended with the cyclist’s leg being amputated. The driver was charged with six offenses: criminal negligence causing bodily harm, dangerous operation causing bodily harm, fail to stop at scene of accident causing bodily harm, attempt to obstruct justice, aggravated assault, and assault with a weapon. But it the same all over the world. Cabbies are raging out of control and we need to curb both taxi use and the antics of the many rotten apples that give the odd good one in the basket a bad name. This is a world wide problem, not one confined to London.

Comment by Linda Smith on 2009-03-16 19:11:46 +0000

Ever noticed how most black cab drivers are white and male? Looks like there is a licenced taxi mafia. You can’t trust a London cabbie! Let’s get rid of the institutional racism and sexism inherent in the current system by, like you say, banning black cabs – and replacing taxis with vetted forms of community transport that don’t hog roads when they’re not needed!

Comment by Joey Ramone on 2009-03-16 19:35:16 +0000

“Cabbies On Crack”
Guided to a path, Broadway, 59
Took off like a blast
Almost lost my mind – oh, oh
Cabbies on crack
It first felt like at thrill ride
Excited for a while
Got pretty scary swerving at 100 miles an hour – oh, oh
Cabbies on crack
I want to get out, out of this yellow shell
I want to get out, crack cabbies straight from hell
And I don’t wanna die before I live
Cabbies on
Cabbies on crack
Cabbies on crack
Want my money back
(Pieces of plastic mouse start to get in my mouth – oh, oh)
Cabbies on crack
Times Square was approaching
He braked for the light
At 90 miles an hour, that’s why I saw my life – oh, oh
Cabbies on crack
I want to get out, out of this yellow shell
I want to get out, crack cabbies straight from hell
And I don’t wanna die before I live
Cabbies on
Cabbies on crack
Cabbies on crack

Comment by Malcolm Browne on 2009-03-16 20:19:12 +0000

What’s the quickest way from Kings X to Highbury Corner? According to the cabbie driving the last black cab I took it was via the City! Bunch of rip-off merchants!

Comment by Christopher Nosnibor on 2009-03-16 20:31:31 +0000

It’s not just London that needs a free public transport system. We need a free (or at least low-cost) and cohesive public transport system that operates on a national scale. I’m sick of getting shafted every time I go any further than I can walk.

Comment by Fiona Booth on 2009-03-16 20:34:49 +0000

And don’t forget that even the newest black cab emits 233g/km of CO2, old ones much more, so they are a major cause of pollution. Aside from the aggression of cab drivers being a good reason to take them off the road, there are also very sound ecological arguments.

Comment by Helen Scott on 2009-03-17 02:14:53 +0000

Black cabs offer their fair share of whiffy fumes but that’s nothing compared to the shin-mashing bumpers most of them still sport. They are a menace to pedestrians and cyclists alike. Ban black cabs now!

Comment by Sarah Lowe on 2009-03-17 03:03:09 +0000

Black cabs are one of the main reasons I moved out of London and down to the sea, they and those that drive them stink up the city!

Comment by Msmarmitelover on 2009-03-17 11:09:35 +0000

I realise I am in the minority here but I rather like Black cabs. True the drivers are often unpleasant but I like the fact that they are properly trained and know London. In New York, I have to tell cabs where to go.

Comment by mistertrippy on 2009-03-17 13:53:14 +0000

Oh they don’t always know where they’re going, try asking to go to Montagu Street behind Marble Arch in W! and most times the moron in the black cab will head towards Montague Street in Bloomsbury WC1, but you’ll also have to have sreaming match with the cretin to convince him that you actually know where you want to go better than he does and that the street is in Marylebone…

Comment by fpteditors on 2009-03-17 16:17:31 +0000

Join the international movement for Free Public Transport.

Comment by K Mail on 2009-03-17 17:06:07 +0000

I totally agre with the two other peopl pretendng to be me here (but they havent got a bad keybpard ie me). Get out and walk!!! See what’s happenng. Death to ….rm…something or other!!!!!

Comment by Hugo Ball on 2009-03-22 12:50:08 +0000

The House of Dr Dee,
The book starts beautifully, with all the obsessive and brilliant attention to detail we have come to expect from the excellent Ackroyd. There is also a very powerful psychogeographic undertow and undercurrent to the first chapters, reminiscent of the occulture works of leaders and innvoators of that style, Stewart Home and Iain Sinclair. It is, for the first few chapters, totally captivating and difficult to put down.
However, as the book progresses, it loses direction — Ackroyd can’t make up his mind whether he wants to create a magical psychogeographic text about the streets of London, or whether he wants to give us authentic historical detail about the minutiae surrounding Dee’s life and environment, or just a plain old British 1930’s style ghost story.
It starts so very well, but gradually falls apart and becomes very unconvincing. I found it tough getting to the end of the book — I had lost interest, and the narrative, prose and character depictions were just not strong enough to hold my attention.
Ackroyd is a talented, insightful writer, who can transform the reader with his words – alas, he doesn’t do so here.
Read “Albion” instead, or any number of his online interviews/book reviews.

Comment by howling wizard, shrieking toad on 2009-03-23 02:13:18 +0000


Comment by Michael Roth on 2009-03-26 00:21:15 +0000

Last time I was in London (years ago), I was almost run over by a black cab. Another pedestrian and myself jumped out of the way at the last second. I remember the horrified look on the face of the passenger in the cab.

Comment by ted on 2009-04-13 21:29:32 +0000

yeah lets get rid of the black cab,along with the red bus the old phone box,the queen,anything that looks english,you idiots.totally brain washed after 10 years of labour,fools.

Comment by ? on 2009-04-14 02:08:37 +0000

Stewart Home is the author of Defiant Pose, No Pity, and Red London. He lives in London, England. He was the creator of The Art Strike 1990-93. He caused many art pranks during the eighties including handing out invitations to The Booker Prize to the poor, and picketing a Stockhausen concert in Brighton, threatening to levitate the building. He is also the controversial writer of The Assault On Culture, chronicling art movements in the 20th century. While he was in San Francisco, some protesters threatened his life at ATA, while he was giving a lecture about his art activity. Look out Salman Rushdie!
Alexander Laurence:
How did you get started?
Stewart Home:
I was born in London. That is where I’ve always done things. I really got started with punk rock in the 70’s and I was in some terrible ska and punk bands. The ska band was called The Molotovs, which was a strange name, but the lead singer was in a horrendous Trotskyite party, so we had to put up with all these atrocious lyrics. I was in a few punk bands that were like The Stooges with obscene lyrics.
Could you describe your book Red London?
Basically what a lot of my fiction does is it draws on pulp fiction writing from Britain in the 70’s, particularly youth culture fiction about skinheads and Hells Angels. I’m also influenced by Jim Thompson and Mickey Spillane, the hard-boiled detective novel, or even going back to future war novels, science fiction, and fantasy. I draw on that material and try critically to deconstruct it. I take a lot of sentences out of other people’s books and I repeat them endlessly through the work around the narrative structure. Also when you write a book, you need about 60 thousand words. Raymond Chandler says “If you run out of ideas, have someone come through the door with a gun.” All I do is have a sex scene every other page, and every sex scene is identical. That’s half the book before you’re even started.
You were there during the original British punk movement. What do you think of the idea of The Sex Pistols having something to do with Situationism, and The Clash having something to do with Leftist Marxist politics?
It’s rubbish. Joe Strummer would wear a “Red Army Faction” t-shirt or something. If you actually listen to The Clash’s lyrics, you can’t place them in any political ideology. It’s just vague dissatisfaction. I love those song lyrics on the first album. People took it as being left wing, but I don’t think it was anything. It’s symbolic and rhetorical. It doesn’t have any depth, but that’s what I like about it. Mick Jones was from a middle class background, but Strummer went to a private school. His father was a diplomat. As far as The Sex Pistols: they just wanted to be a rock and roll band. They didn’t have anything to do with Situationism. I know Jamie Reid who did all the artwork. When you see Rotten talk these days he’s pretty inarticulate. He’s read all this pretentious rubbish about himself and he tries to reproduce it, and he sounds absurd doing it because he doesn’t understand what he’s talking about. The way they connected it back to the Situationists was Jamie Reid, and I asked him, and he said that he was never a member of King Mob. King Mob contained several members who were in the British part of the Situationist International. If you read the SI journal, it says that King Mob are not Situationists. All these people want to build up Situationism by saying it had a huge influence on punk. It’s rubbish. The real influence on punk was the harder edge of the sixties. Punk was anti-sixties and anti-flower power, and it drew on the harder edge of the sixties like the yuppies and the Black Panthers. Another influence was the free festivals in Europe and people like The Pink Fairies. They aren’t punk but they were playing songs like “City Kids” and “Waiting For The Man” with tough English accents. One of The Pink Fairies played with Cook and Jones in The Professionals. All the people who were the sound crew and the roadies for The Sex Pistols were from the free festival. That was the most obvious influence.
What do you think of the several anarchist movements so far?
There is an anarchist scene that doesn’t conform to a dictionary definition. It’s this idea of “Are you anti-authoritarian or what are you?” I have problems with any utopian belief. I don’t want to travel to the future that has already been mapped out for me. I want to free up the present. I have problems with post-modernism too. I don’t want to throw away the idea of progress. When I use the notion of progress, I don’t use it in a 19th century absolutist term. I use it as a heuristic device. The idea of the future should be a way to organize the present. I don’t want to know exactly what the future is going to be, but I like a more Sorelian idea. You know, Georges Sorel? I find his ideas very useful. New culture and progress comes out of miscegenation. They don’t come from nowhere.
As far as your book, The Assault On Culture, your art writings and manifestos: how did you get interested in this stuff?
What happened was when I was in school all I wanted to do was to be involved in music, but I wasn’t so good a guitar player. I did a punk fanzine and I was in a band. By 1980, there wasn’t that much happening that I was interested in, musically. By 1982, I got bored of doing fanzines, and I had quit the band I was in. I was bored in the music scene. So I was looking to do something interesting. What I learned from punk rock was I could play an instrument without knowing anything about it. I went to many art exhibits, and I remember one at the ICA in London. I looked at it and thought “This is really lousy. I could do better than this.”
What was it?
It was an exhibition of fake advertising stuff. It was parodies of advertising posters. I thought that it wasn’t a very interesting insight because you can look at Modernist paintings and say “A three year old can do it.” That might be true. That’s banal. What I was interested in was not the fact that I could do it, but how could I get something on a wall in a gallery. I wondered “How does one become an artist?” I have the opposite position of Baudrillard, who says what’s real becomes simulated. My position is what’s simulated becomes real. That’s my Hegelianism: I just want to reverse everything. Or is that Satanism? I became a musician of sorts, or a non-musician, without knowing anything beforehand; maybe I could become an artist? I started advertising myself as an artist. I started taking out classified ads. Doing leaflets saying “Now, I’m an artist.”
Were you writing stories at this time too?
At the same time I started writing this basically banal poetry. All these people in rock bands were getting into poetry and experimental music, which was really awful. At the same time, there was a poetry revival. All these terrible poets get up on stage and reading. People that you had never heard of to people like Ann Clark. They would read about how depressed they were living on the 29th floor of a towerblock and had been burglarized sixty times. I thought that it was dull. So I’d go up there and do these really banal poems about fruit and vegetables, and they’d all be three lines long. I was really into banality for a few years. I had this notion to do plagiarism, not coming through post-modernism because I didn’t know anything about it. It had to do with all these horrible poets talking about being original. My attitude was “Fuck you, if you’re going to be original, I’m going to be unoriginal.” I got into plagiarism, and that was reinforced by reading Lautreamont.
The idea for the Art Strike came in 1985. How did you prepare for that?
I had done Generation Positive, then got involved with the Neoists for a year. I broke with them and at the same time I found out that Gustav Metzger was involved with auto-destructive art in London in the sixties. He ran the “Destruction of Art Symposium” in London in 1966. He announced the original art strike in an ICA catalogue in 1974; it was to run from 1977 to 1980. I thought it was a good idea and wondered why I had never heard of it. His point was the commodification of art. He wanted to close down the galleries but it didn’t work because no one else participated. (Actually I met him for the first time a few weeks ago.) I thought it was a good idea but no one had done anything with it. I took his original text and substituted the years 1990-93. I worked on developing the idea. For years it didn’t get any reaction. By 1989, some momentum was built up, and a lot of people got interested. Through the underground press, it really took off in Britain and America, and especially in San Francisco. At the festival of plagiarism, we had a pamphlet called “Plagiarism, Marxism, Commodities, and Strategies of Its Negation” because it sounded like a good title. But the people in San Francisco took it very literally. “Yeah, I’m really pissed off with my art being commodified!” Doesn’t look like it’s being commodified very well to me. I was much more interested in the ideological function of art. Why corporations sponsor art, how they use it as justifications for their activities, how upper class people use their acquisition of art or high cultural discourse as being superior to other people who might like Oi music or punk rock. It wasn’t realistic to try and get art galleries to close down, until 1992 when art sales dropped 60%. Some people say that my timing was fortuitous, but how in the hell in 1985 would I know that in the middle of the Art Strike everything would start collapsing anyway. In actual fact, it was the psychological effect of my propaganda that did it. There was a recession as well.
In Red London, your descriptions of the sex scenes are sort of a parody. What was that about?
I liked creating an absurd language when it came to describing sex–when you describe their bodies, you just talk about the bulk and you get all these interchangeable words. In the 70’s pulp fiction there was a weird idea of sexuality: on the one hand, it was very natural, and on the other hand people became automatons when they were doing it. They’d lose control of their bodies. There would be odd references to genetics. So I wanted to use that and really push it. It was like taking the idea of pulp and deconstructing it. A lot of people read Red London in relation to books about 70’s youth culture and skinheads. Books by Richard Allen and H. P. Lovecraft. In Lovecraft, there’s an anarchist book and if you read it, you’re driven crazy and you kill the first rich person you see. It’s absurd. I don’t write autobiography, but I know that people will read my books as autobiography. So I lay red herrings, so they get a fucked up idea of what I’m really like. The reader always plays a productive role.

Comment by Sam on 2010-01-03 19:21:46 +0000

A rape per week is reported in mini cabs,are black cabs really that unsafe now that one has been caught doing wrong?
I personally insist my daughters get Black Cabs home at night and i can’t see that changing soon.
If Linda Smith(above) would leave her email address, i am sure that some of the cabbies will contact her apologizing for being white and male.

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