Is There Still Taxi Racism In London?


The other night some friends were out late for the evening, and missed the last tube home. One suggested getting a cab, and another, who happens to be black, shook his head, saying that he’d never be able to get one at this time of night.

Shocked, my white friends insisted the black friend proved his point, and sent him out to hail a taxi while they tucked themselves out of sight. Three taxis in a row refused to stop for the black man. The fourth stopped only when the white friends appeared by his side.

The black guy explained; ‘They think I’ll want to go the the kind of area they won’t be able to get a fare back from, or that I’ll try to get out of paying.’

Well, it seems he proved the point but I’m still surprised – is there a racial problem among London cabbies? Comments here…

8 comments on “Is There Still Taxi Racism In London?”

  1. Shaun says:

    Yes ,this is nothing new.

  2. Dan Terrell says:

    Not sure about London, but here in the States we have just finished re-electing our first black President. During the nearly endless campaign there seemed, most unfortunately, to be an unwanted amount of crypto-racist comments. This bothered a majority of people on both sides of the campaign, but it was there. Can’t people get by such cataloguing?
    I had a Middle School English teacher – his name was (honest) Mr. Booke, who said to his classes: “We’re all books and there is a lot to read and learn in every one of us. You should not judge books or people by their covers, colour, size, weight, date of publication, but only by their contents. If after a couple of chapters, you are not really interested, well, try another book, and try reading a wide variety of books, and knowing a wide variety of people some will become friends. This should make you a better, wiser, and happier person.”
    As to the cab issue, I’ve seen that happen and been told that some areas – in my case suburban – will never produce a return fare and they just couldn’t take anyone there, unless there is a heavy, but illegal,surcharge. That may be true, but it’s isn’t right.

  3. Mike Cane says:

    This is probably still so in NYC too. It rises up in TV reports from time to time. Not being able to get a fare back is understandable, but if you’re providing a service, provide the damn service. It will all even out in the end.

  4. snowy says:

    I’d like to think the reasons are purely economic. But you never know, they are not obliged to stop when flagged, but they are obliged to take the fare when on a rank.

    Anyone who has trouble could try using the free ‘Hailo’ app, which hails a cab elecronically and forwards the Driver’s name and licence plate number to the phone.

    If the cab blows by, you have the info to complain to both the service provider and the Carriage Office.

    There is no surcharge for the service and it also works in New York and Barcelona amongst other places.

  5. John Howard says:

    Whilst I don’t have any first hand knowledge, I am not surprised by the story above. It’s just a sad fact of life that colour/creed still affects the way some people behave towards others. The phrase “I’m not a racist but” I have heard often. Luckily I was taught by my parents a similar philosophy to the one outlined by Dan, even if it wasn’t said out loud, I was steered away from any non inclusive attitudes. It helped that I had a very varied childhood having spent more of my life abroad than in the UK by the time I reached 17.

    I think that a definite case of nurture and peer attitudes apply here. I count myself lucky.

    I even don’t mind working with women…

  6. Helen Martin says:

    John, I’m not going to rise to that. My mother taught us inclusiveness, banning any racist or other words that we might pick up at school (the late ’40’s were full of it)so it wasn’t until I was 17 or 18 that I discovered the number of racist attitudes she really had. I put it down to being raised “out on the bald-headed prairie” with few neighbours of any kind. I am grateful that it was her teaching that stuck.
    As far as hailing cabs goes, we must be the only place in the world where you can’t hail a cab. There are cab ranks (usual rules) or you phone for one. The restriction on cab licenses is said to be that roaming around you’d never be able to make a living, while phoning means all drivers get a fair share. Since they’re radio dispatched if you are wanting one in suburbia and there is one anywhere around the dispatcher can do that quickly. I sat in on cab licensing hearings and was amazed at the numbers that were thrown around, even allowing for the natural poor mouth you’d expect to hear from firms asking for a fare increase. It does mean that there isn’t as much racism possible.

  7. keith page says:

    What about ‘south of the river’ discrimination?

  8. Helen Martin says:

    Ooh, we got that too. South of the river takes you into darkest Surrey and there’ll be no return fare. Why couldn’t we come up with our own names? We have New Westminster, Surrey (across the river from New West) Abbotsford but we do have Chilliwack, Hope, and Spuzzum.

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