The unmistakable black cabs roaming the streets of London are just as much part of the city as the Big Ben or the Tower Bridge. In fact, London cabs have appeared at the start of the 17 century, long before motorized cars were even invented.
The first taxi enterprise was what we would today call a startup. Captain John Bailey, who cut his entrepreneurial teeth during sea expeditions, started his new venture with just four horse-driven carriages. The Hackneys, as the coaches were called, had a strict black color as well as distinctive markings, or branding, to stand out in the bustling streets of London. Pretty soon, imitators have flooded the market, and the industry exploded.
In the early 1800s, taxi companies have adopted innovative and trendy two-wheeled carriages called cabriolets. Even today, we still use the name “cab” synonymously with taxis and call their drivers “cabbies.” In fact, a lot of what is part and parcel of the taxi industry today has been brought about by London Hackneys. For instance, in 1917, the Public Carriage Office has released a set of standards to guide the cab services. Among other things that were introduced back then were the taximeters. Next time you land in a random airport in a new country and jump into a metered cab to get to your hotel, thank the “cabbies” for pioneering this transparent way of charging customers.
At the dawn of the motor engine, London’s taxis were one of the first to adopt electric vehicles. Sadly, the innovation didn’t stick back then. Electric cars were more expensive than their petrol competitors and were squeezed out of the market. Perhaps, history gives us a second chance – today, electric taxis are making a comeback. The new generation of zero-emission LEVC TX cabs has hit the roads in 2018 and is set to replace the old diesel models over time. Have a safe ride to the future, London Hackney!
Enjoyed this story? Here are a few recommendations you might find useful:
- Fodor’s London. A comprehensive London guidebook to take with you during the trip.
- Mission London: A Scavenger Hunt. Traveling to London with kids? Take them on an exciting adventure around the city
- London: A Travel Guide Through Time. A different kind of a guidebook that brings through the rich history of one of the most exciting cities in the world