The taxi or minicab has become a familiar sight around our streets, but how much do you actually know about these vehicles and their drivers? Here are ten top facts that may surprise you about taxis.
The word ‘taxi’ comes from the term ‘taximetre, or ‘taximeter’, which is the name of the device inside the cab that shows the fare that is due. The word ‘taxicab’ entered the English language in 1907. ‘Cab’ derives from the French term, ‘cabriolet’, meaning a light, horse-drawn carriage.
2. Figure it out
There are around 21,000 black cabs in London with thousands more licensed minicabs. Many drivers own their own taxi and operate it as an independent business. You are, in effect, stepping into a shop when you use a taxi.
3. The Knowledge
Official London black cab drivers are still obliged to learn The Knowledge as part of their training – that’s 320 routes to learn off by heart, taking in 25,000 streets and 20,000 landmarks within England’s capital city.
4. In good company
The Worshipful Company of Hackney Carriage Drivers became the City of London’s 104th Livery Company in February 2004. There are now 110 Livery Companies with the Worshipful Company of Arts Scholars being one of the newest, joining in 2014.
It is technically against the law to hail a taxi from the street by shouting ‘taxi!’ as this can distract the driver and cause an accident. You should instead hold out your arm to indicate that you need a ride. Or you can book your taxi or minicab in advance, of course.
6. Health and safety
Anyone who has notifiable diseases, such as rabies, tuberculosis or cholera may not travel in taxis or any other public conveyances, under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act of 1984.
7. Equal opportunities
New York is said to have the largest number of female taxi drivers in the world. Just one percent of London’s black cabs are driven by women.
8. Lovely day!
The most common conversation to take place between the driver and their customer in a British taxi is about the weather. Although the state of the roads and UK politics must come as fairly close runners-up!
9. Internationally speaking
The word for taxi is the same in English, French, German, Swedish, Portuguese and Dutch.
10. Keeping in touch
Two-way radios first appeared in taxis in the 1940s, allowing drivers and dispatchers to stay in touch more easily and serve customers most effectively. The rise of mobile communications continues to help these vital communications improve and evolve.