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LONDON'S ACCESSIBLE CABS

Eddy's London Taxi Cab

Eddy The Cabbie isn't a Cockney. In order to be a Cockney, one must have been born within earshot of the Bow Bells. His birth took place out of earshot of the bells in London's East End but, to hear him talk, he's as close to a Cockney as you can get.

What Eddy is, and darn proud to be, is one of London's 21,000 licensed cab drivers who whisk tourists and locals alike through the narrow lanes and broad thoroughfares of this busting British capital filled with its world-class attractions. He's also proud of the fact that he can accommodate almost anyone in his 'black cab' enriched by a covering of Vodafone advertising.

Although it can't be said of some of the city's tourism venues.. every cab is fully accessible no matter the type of mobility aid. And, should the device be too big for the standard taxi, there is always something larger waiting to accommodate your needs, usually only moments away.

In our case, following a recent cruise to Southampton, we took a train (also accessible) into the heart of the city from our hotel near Gatwick Airport. Upon arrival at Victoria Station we simply asked for directions to the taxi stand (queue) and there, at the front of the line, was Eddy.

At first I was certain that we needed a bigger vehicle to handle us. 'Us' consisted of Barb, her 18 year-old daughter, Marie, and myself. Marie was travelling in her manual wheelchair and I was using my four wheel travel scooter. In spite of my doubts, Eddy had us all aboard in just a few minutes with my scooter disassembled and in the space beside him while Marie's chair shared space with us in the passenger area with the three of us comfortably seated.

The majority of the cabs are made by the LTI company and they come in only two models. The basic, and most used, one has its own, built-in ramp, large doors, a PA system, safety information lighting, seating for up to five, plenty of headroom and large windows so you can enjoy the sights. The luxury model has a few more toys and all come in one colour.. black!

When the original London black cabs appeared, the majority were based on the Austin Princess car and that design, with certain modifications, has been carried over to the modern fleet.


The cabbies are constantly making U-turns and one of the features of the vehicles is its 25-foot turning radius which was the result of a law passed in the early 20th century that, in order to operate in London, the motorized taxis must be able to negotiate the turning circle at the front of the London Savoy Hotel just as the horse-drawn cabs had done since the hotel was built.

It also amazed us that hardly anyone in London uses their car horn. A cab will suddenly make a 'u-ey' and no one honks.. not the cars, not the buses and, especially, not other cabs. Even the police don't seem to take notice. And, on top of that, you hardly see any dents or scratches on the taxis!

It took Eddy more than four years to become a London cabbie. The training is extensive and the exams unforgiving. There are no 'rogue' cabs here. Part of the training is finding the shortest way to take the fare from point 'a' to point 'b'. Unlike other cities, you have to ask to go sightseeing. But.. if you want to sightsee, you can see all the sights by booking one of these fellows either by the meter or by flat rate. It may not be the cheapest way to go but it is very handy to have your own driver sitting there when you come out of the major attractions. Eddy even had cold drinks waiting when we returned to the vehicle after visiting St Paul's Cathedral as London experienced a rare heatwave.

Big Ben
Big Ben & Houses of Parliament
London Bridge
Tower Bridge
Victoria Memorial
Victoria Memorial


Eddy moved from the East End out to a house near Heathrow that he shares with his wife and daughter but he is still a Londoner at heart. He took us almost everywhere we wanted to go on that hot afternoon in air conditioned comfort, all the while telling us stories on the PA system and answering our questions in his rich, near Cockney accent. When it was time to head back to the train, he went by the taxi dropoff area and took us to a side door at Victoria Station that bypassed many of the busy areas as commuters starting their homeward journey.



River Thames
River Thames


For our first encounter with London we couldn't have chosen a better guide. If Eddy is typical of all the taxi drivers in the British capital you might want to consider this very accessible means of sightseeing.




Bob Rice
Barrier-FreeCruising.com
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