I’ve been thinking about posting about my general love of black cabs for a while but didn’t see how I could weave it in, then I realised they could be the perfect Shout-out Saturday recipients. As for some reason, the true awesomeoness of black cabs – or rather, the cabbies driving them – seems to regularly get forgotten thanks to ‘services’ like Uber.
I cynically refer to Uber being a service in inverted commas because the few times I’ve used Uber it’s been more of a hindrance than a help, with drivers relying on GPS and generally not having the first clue about London. Maybe I’ve been unlucky the three times I’ve used them, but three times is enough for me to know never again. I wouldn’t use a washing powder for a fourth time in the vain hope that it starts miraculously removing stains, you’re allowed to say “this seems to be a crap alternative to very good black cabs, so I’m deleting it now”.
Whilst I’ve bitched about Uber and sung from the rooftops about black cabs on Twitter a fair bit in the past, I’ve been a bit wary about blogging about it. I guess because the main differentiator between the two (according to most people I speak to) is the price. By saying you take black cabs, some people interpret it as saying “I like spending more money than I need to”. Uber is, generally, a lot cheaper. Admitting you take the more expensive option for the same service can make you feel a little foolish.
But here’s the thing, Uber and black cabs are NOT THE SAME SERVICE.
Yes, they’re both cars that will take you from A to B, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end if you ask me.
I don’t know if I am particularly anti-Uber because I have a car – i.e if I wanted to sit in traffic, not be able to use the bus lanes and rely on GPS I would just drive myself for free. But for me, taxis are what you use when you want to get somewhere safely and as quickly as possible. I will ALWAYS take the bus/tube when I can, so taxis are for when there isn’t time to take the bus/tube or for when you need to go door to door.
I don’t use black cabs every day but I do use them every week and I have never felt unsafe in one. You can of course have the odd debate about what route is better, but it’s because they know so many routes that you can have that discussion in the first place. You don’t rely on GPS ‘hoping for the best’ or that there won’t be a road closure or congestion – it’s London, there WILL BE a road closure or congestion….and a black cab will know where these are and how to get around them.
I totally get the appeal of Uber in an app sense. I can see why people love having an app that gives them a private driver and takes away the need to carry cash – it’s why I use Hailo. I’ve watched the Hailo vs Uber vs street work debates with a lot of interest.
I stopped using Hailo for a while when there was a particularly high amount of hatred towards it from cabbies, but I’m back using it now. My Hailo account is linked to my business credit card, so it’s really helpful from an expenses point of view to have the whole thing seamlessly linked. I don’t use it if I have cash on me or for ‘pleasure rides’ (ooo errr), I just hail on the street like I always did pre-Hailo. I’ve never used their executive car service because if I want a cab I want a proper black cab…I still don’t really get why they’re trying to be an app for black cabs AND for exec cars.
The Hackney Carriage element is important in itself, I don’t mean from a nostalgic “support black cabs because they look cool like red phone boxes, LOL” point of view, I mean because they’re comfy and roomy and really great to be a passenger in. You can can get work done. There’s a decent amount of room between you and the driver so you can have private conversations or quiet phone calls. I don’t want to pay to sit all squashed in the back seat of a saloon car as if I’m 13 years old and off to a netball match. The bus is genuinely more comfy than any Uber I’ve had. And the bus is £1.50.
I wish black cabs were cheaper, I really do, but I appreciate that I’m paying for an expert to drive me somewhere safely and efficiently. There’s a price for that service.
I think the Uber fanfare has massively died down anyway now to be fair, but I just wanted to use this post to say that I truly think black cabs are great. Take a cab in any other country and you’ll appreciate even more how great they are here in London. I’ve had a few rude/annoying cabbies, sure, but I’ve had hundreds – literally hundreds – who have been top class guys (and girls!) with great chat. I tend to take fairly long journeys when I take them (20 minutes plus) so there’s usually time to talk and I like to make the most of that (can you tell I work on my own and crave conversation?!). Most weeks a cabbie will have generally made my day better somehow.
I can’t even begin to imagine how frustrating driving a cab must be some days, with the traffic being as rage inducing as it can be and passengers being rude/drunk/idiots. I certainly couldn’t do it.
This article on The Knowledge is a great one, which really helps you appreciate how much cabbies go through before they can drive a Hackney Carriage. And it’s because of that knowledge – which EVERY cabbie has – that I can’t seem to understand the appeal of Uber.
I haven’t even touched on the crazy accusations about Uber at board level or the horror stories of rape, abuse and attacks by drivers. Maybe these issues are few and far between and just generate a lot of media noise….or maybe it’s just too damn easy to become an Uber driver. Setting ALL that aside (and there really are a lot of horror stories) I still think black cabs come out as far far far superior.
As I’ve sarcastically said before on Twitter: Uber is cheaper, but so is the bus.
The Hackney Carriage cabbie service and the Uber driver service is not comparable.
I’m certain that the tech commentators who said that Uber will kill off traditional cabs will be proved wrong…and I know who my taxi money is going to, even if the price difference does mean it’s less frequently.
Thank you London cabbies, you’re great.