It must have taken less than a mile of driving, and certainly no more than 10 minutes from leaving home, before I encountered my first example of mad London driving yesterday. Trying to turn right onto Balham High Road from one of the Hever Estate roads, a youngish chap in a Ford Focus decided to turn right from inside me, then accelerated round, and in front of, me so that he could then be in the outside lane at the lights 150 yards ahead. A move of breathtaking stupidity and pointlessness. Needless to say the lights were red so I had, through the universal language of hand gestures, to question his manoeuvre. He then appeared to be in less of a rush than I first thought, as he took the trouble to reverse level with me and deliver the killer comeback “Shut up!”. I didn’t point out that I hadn’t said anything, just thanked him for his wise words and carried on my journey. And so, through the rest of the day I couldn’t stop thinking about how London would be a more pleasant place if we all just drove a little bit more carefully and considerately. I can hear the hoots of derision as you read this from a cab driver but there is no doubt in my mind that cab drivers are, generally speaking, the safest drivers on the streets of London. Only the most insane cabbie would want to risk crashing and living with the subsequent loss of income. And so, with thanks to Mr Ford Focus, I give you my guide to driving in ‘that there London’.
- overtaking on the inside – just DON’T. It’s against the law and plain stupid.
- indicators – Do what they say, give other drivers an INDICATION of what you’d LIKE to do. Putting on your indicator does not put other road users under any obligation to allow you to make the manoeuvre that you are INDICATING you’d LIKE to do. Geddit?? See separate section for buses.
- 4 wheel drives – never give way to these vehicles, ever. Not one I always enforce but one that I know Mrs Cabbie would like me to include and who can blame her?
- giving way– see those lines on the road in front of you? The ones that look a bit like this? = = = = They mean you have to stop (before them, not 10 yards over them) and GIVE WAY. (Sigh) Ok, giving way means that you do not have right of way coming out of your turning, you GIVE WAY to other traffic. Unless the road is clear or some kind driver allows you to proceed, YOU HAVE TO WAIT. Life isn’t fair is it? See separate section for buses.
- buses – Where to start? Ever since the change in the highway code that means that all road users should give way to buses, the driving of buses has gone from bad to downright dangerous. Most bus drivers have taken the change in law as a license to drive how the hell they like. Half-way though overtaking a bus? They still think that you should give way to them, no matter that the onus to give way lies with you, NOT THEM. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve had to take evasive action when a bus has considered it has right of way, and just bullied it’s way in front of me. I have no problem with the general principle involved here, it’s the way that bus drivers think it applies to them that doesn’t work. Put you indicator on and if I can, given the prevailing road conditions, I will let you out.
- cyclists – Contrary to popular opinion, cyclists are not my number one enemy on the roads, they probably don’t even make it into the top 3. But I do have to mention this jumping the lights business. Again, it is a principle I sort of understand, give yourselves a head start and you can make yourself a bit safer. But blindly heading through a major junction can’t always be safe can it? I nearly killed a cyclist last week as he looked to run a red light, luckily he changed his mind at the last minute and I’d seen him and slowed down enough to get out of his way. Lucky that time but maybe not next, eh?
- mopeds – having spent 3 years on one, I can speak with reasonable authority about this. Like cyclists, generally not too many issues here, but…. You know when you do that quick overtaking manoeuvre and nip in front of me to avoid oncoming traffic? If your nippy manoeuvre is that bit too nippy, I have to slow down to stop ramming you up the ‘arris and that can mean someone further back in the line, who might be daydreaming slightly, rams into me or someone else. No matter, you’ve made it safely ahead of me and will be home at least 10 seconds earlier than you would have. Good for you.
- pedestrians – vying for top spot in my “affections” with bus drivers are dear old pedestrians. Known to operate in flocks, especially in the Oxford Street area, they do seem as stupid as sheep. Let’s examine the evidence;
– standing 20 yards from a pedestrian crossing, often on the zig-zag lines themselves, and getting annoyed that cars don’t stop for you,
– waiting (most notably at any road that crosses Oxford Street) until the green man has gone before deciding to cross en masse, and getting annoyed when cars try and go though a green light, how dare they?
– waiting by a zebra crossing looking like you are ready to cross, only to wave me on when I’ve stopped. Or, another variation, waiting by a zebra crossing but not actually intending to cross at all. If I’ve seen you by the crossing I will stop for you, I know the rules. An indicator that I’m stopping is the general slowing mode that I put the cab into. You don’t have to wait until I’m at an actual standstill before making your way across, running pedestrians over on crossings isn’t, generally, good for business. In fact, it’s pretty lousy.
Of course, there is an overriding principle here, cab drivers are professional, courteous and, above all, always right. If you all remember that, everything would be much better. But there are a couple of things I’d like to point out.
- stopping – It’s happened to us all hasn’t it? Minding your own business, only for some bastard cab to cut you up and/or stop suddenly in a self important and smug way, hazard lights blazing. But cabs don’t do that sort of thing just for the hell of it, really they don’t. The underlying principle here is that, without question, they are JUST TRYING TO DO THEIR JOB. So stopping for a punter, who has positioned themselves incorrectly, is part of the job. As is suddenly taking a left without indicating, because that same punter has suddenly said “THIS LEFT, HERE!” in a startling and slightly alarming fashion. And believe me, punters are not very understanding about cabbies missing their turn. They think it’s all part of the drivers attempt to extract an extra 20p on the fare.
- u-turns – Again, I’m prepared to accept that it can be frustrating to have a cab straddling the road trying to head in the other direction. But, come one, you’ve all taken cabs right? And sometimes they must have had to do a u-turn to start heading the right way, you know, AS PART OF DOING THEIR JOB. You wouldn’t want us going the long way round would you?
All in all then, a pretty easy set of rules to help our great metropolis run that little bit smoother. Print it out, carry it round with you, pass it on to your friends. Spread the gospel according to the London Cabbie.