Taxi Talk: Interesting Taxi Facts

Black taxiIf you want to brush-up on the history of your profession, or test your driver’s knowledge next time you’re sat in the back of a taxi; you’ll have to go a long way to find more interesting taxi trivia:

The first real ‘taxis’ were horse-drawn taxis which appeared on the streets of London during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

Horse-drawn carriages were expensive to run and aristocrats would help to spread costs by hiring them out to the less well-off.

It was originally thought that ‘hackney carriages’ took their name from the French word ‘haquenée’ (a horse used for ambling or riding side saddle), but the name is more likely to have come from the London Borough of Hackney.

At the turn of the 19th Century the French developed a fast and comfortable two-wheeled carriage called a ‘cabriolet’ from which we derive the word ‘cab’.

The word ‘taxi’ comes from ‘taximeter’ the name given to the mechanical device used to calculate fares based on a calculation of distance travelled and waiting time.

The taximeter was invented by a German named Friedrich Bruhn way back in 1891 and the first petrol powered cab equipped with a taximeter was built by Daimler in 1897.

The first motorised ‘taxicabs’ to hit London’s streets were electric, but they proved unreliable and expensive and were eventually replaced with petrol taxis.

Horse-drawn taxis worked alongside their motorised counterparts until the end of WWII when the last licence was issued.

Whether fact or fiction it’s often claimed that the reason London taxis have so much headroom is so gentlemen don’t have to remove their hats.

The Austin FX-4 is the iconic black cab and was in production from 1958-1996, an updated version of the classic hit the streets of Tokyo in 1989 sold as the ‘Big Ben Novelty Car’.

Contrary to popular belief black taxis aren’t obliged to stop when hailed, irrespective of whether they are displaying a yellow light. Legally moving cabs aren’t allowed to ply for business although they must pick-up passengers if they stop or are parked.

London taxis have traditionally been black due to cost rather than design, although today they are painted all colours of the rainbow.

Black cabs are famously said to be able to ‘turn on a sixpence’ which doubtless helps them navigate the city’s tangled streets. However, folklore says that a tight turning circle was originally designed to enable taxis to navigate the mini roundabout outside the Savoy Hotel.

The anonymity afforded by black cabs hasn’t gone unnoticed by celebrities and several own them to get around, including: The Duke of Edinburgh, Kate Moss and Stephen Fry.

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