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A Skelding Summary

Taxis of various types have been gracing the streets of Covent Garden and London for centuries. Licenses controlling the use of horse drawn carriages date from 1639 - and they were still were in operation 300 years later in 1947.

In 1900 there were 11,000 registered cabs in London and well over double that now (that's not counting minicabs) Motorised taxis appeared in London in 1904 and got the name 'taxi' from the taxometer that standardised the fares from counting revolutions of their wheels. A statistician about ten years before that had seriously predicted that, at the 'current' rate of expansion and increase of population, horse manure would cover every street in London from wall to wall, even covering windows, within fifty years. Thank you Henry Ford.

Taxi drivers have also to acquire something called 'the knowledge' which is a test on road routes, street names and main sites in a six mile radius from Charing Cross. That's a lot of streets. They also have to second guess the whims of the town planners who look at their plans and get bright ideas about one way streets. If you question them most taxi drivers believe that town planners bear some grudge against all motorists and especially taxis who used to be for the privaledged. Now that parking fees appear to be a new tax on the wealthy taxis are more commonly used.

You can see aspiring taxi-drivers often on mopeds with an 'L' plate and a clip board. It's hard and many fail first time. When they do get 'the knowledge' they may be excused from resenting unlicenced minicab drivers who often ask their passengers how to get there and even more often, take convoluted routes. If you talk to the cabbie you may have a fount of information about the streets, architecture and gossip. (Your seat may still be warm from a celebrity's bottom).

If you are travelling in a group around central London it can be cheaper to use a taxi than travel in slow, expensive tube or buses. If not, you can always rent a cycle if you really want a close-up of the centre of London.
The Scape map makes this a lot of fun.

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This FAQ (frequently asked questions) is also a running Q&A (questions & Answers) so you can ask and we will answer or find out for you.

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By Laurence Skelding

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