John Griffin’s call for civil-disobedience among his sub-contractors has annoyed some bike riders but the real turf-war is between categories of taxi-driver. Black-cab drivers, the aristocrats of the trade, have to spend years of ritual humiliation as ‘knowledge boys’, pottering around on low-powered motor-cycles – riding them is really dangerous – with bar-mounted map-clips, memorising the streets, hoping to pass ‘The Knowledge’, a Driving Standards Agency exam.
Black-cab drivers can navigate from Paddington Church Street to Wimbledon Church Street without reference to books, electronic aids or phoning a friend. Licensed taxi-drivers in black-cabs can pick up passengers who hail them on the street while minicab-drivers can only take bookings by phone, internet or via an office. Minicab-drivers are free to negotiate fares, black-cabs carry a meter that only offers a fixed tariff.
The advent of satellite navigation has diluted the mystical status of ‘The Knowledge’. John Griffin, chairman of the Private Hire Car Association, clearly wants to move the image of the minicab – traditionally a smelly car with square wheels, whose dodgy looking driver doesn’t know Camden Town from Canning Town – up-market.
The bitterest arguments are usually between groups who – viewed from a distance – appear to be almost identical. Supporters of Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United don’t get along even though both come from the Steel City and have an unhealthy interest in association football.
Saturday(28-04-12) is the date of ‘The Big Ride‘ a show of strength organised by the London Cycling Campaign to coincide with the forthcoming mayoral election.
Think long and hard before voting for anyone who makes our city a global embarrassment by being too dumb to put mudguards on a bike they plan to ride in office clothes.
The Big Ride rolls out from Marble Arch at mid-day and there are feeder rides starting all over.
You may be a follower of Mikael Colville-Andersen to whom a bike is no more interesting than a vacuum cleaner and who does most of his miles in a jet airliner? You may be the kind of person who if their head were cut off – in some brutal Matthew Parris inspired atrocity – it would reveal the image of a bicycle through their neck like the writing in a stick of seaside rock?
Either way if you’re in the London area on Saturday, with nothing better to do, why not join in? You might make new friends or – even better – history?