In capital cities across Europe, taxi drivers took to the streets without passengers Wednesday afternoon.
They slowed to a snail's pace in what Parisians called "Operation Escargot." Horns blared around Trafalgar Square in London. In Berlin, taxis massed at the Central Station. All to protest the smartphone app Uber. [more inside]
"Piloting London’s distinctive black cabs (taxis to everyone else) is no easy feat. To earn the privilege, drivers have to pass an intense intellectual ordeal, known charmingly as The Knowledge
. Ever since 1865, they’ve had to memorise the location of every street within six miles of Charing Cross – all 25,000 of the capital’s arteries, veins and capillaries. They also need to know the locations of 20,000 landmarks – museums, police stations, theatres, clubs, and more – and 320 routes that connect everything up." Acquiring The Knowledge changes the brains
of those who acquire it.
The sitcom Taxi
was inspired by two non-fiction articles that appeared in New York Magazine in September, 1975: Night-Shifting for the Hip Fleet
and The Word from Belmore
, both by author, writer and journalist Marc Jacobson
. (Google Books: Original layout and photos
.) In 2004, he checked in with local cabdrivers
to see how things had changed for them after 30 years. As predicted, leasing did spell the end for the artist/writer/actor cabbie. [more inside]
Taxi top lights
, called andon
(行灯) in Japanese after the Edo-era wood
lanterns, come in a variety of shapes and colors
. Although originally
used in the mid-1950s to discourage robberies, andon
are now used as company logos
or to advertise
For 150 years or more
, the locomotive engineer has held a special place in American history
. [more inside]
London prides itself on having the most highly trained cab drivers in the world. Black cab drivers (as opposed to their unlicensed minicab counterparts) must pass a gruelling test of local geography known as The Knowledge
. Applicants take several years to master over 300 "runs"
through London, and are often seen scouring the streets on mopeds
with maps on clipboards as they prepare. Knowledge Boys (and Girls), as trainees are known, practise calling over the runs with "callover" partners (Forward, Orchard Street. Right Oxford Street. Comply Marble Arch...
). Passing The Knowledge requires appearing before the Public Carriage Office
multiple times before obtaining a license, and has been scientifically proven to grow the cabbies' brains
, findings which could help those whose memories have been damaged by stroke or trauma
. The Knowledge even forms the basis of a dystopian future religion in Will Self's The Book of Dave
Naturally, London's cabbies were incensed when the Immigration Minister recently referred to them as "low-skilled"