As you go about your busy lives, you might be forgiven to having missed this important date, for today is Groundhog Day. The day, according to American folklore that if a groundhog emerging from its burrow on this day fails to see its shadow, it will leave the burrow, signifying that winter will soon end. Only in America could a ceremony like this about a rodent have been dreamed up, and made an annual holiday to boot.
Like Bill Murray in the 1993 film of the same name, I seem to be experiencing a recurring nightmare. Every day I go to work or sit down to write for CabbieBlog, it’s the same problem over and over again, yes it’s that Rickshaw post again.
As unbelievable as it seems, in London in the 21st Century there is still a major problem with Rickshaws. Whilst the third world is doing all it can to lose the last of these degrading pedal powered contraptions, some unscrupulous operators are clogging up the streets of the Metropolis with these dangerous and sometimes illegal vehicles.
It’s not a matter of ‘if’ rather than ‘when’ a serious accident or fatality involving a London rickshaw takes place. The rickshaw drivers do not have criminal record checks, and are not tested on road safety or their knowledge of London streets, with the result that the streets of Soho and Covent Garden have become a dangerous free for all with over 400 plying for hire and already one London pedicab driver has been convicted of raping a passenger.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that riders include illegal immigrants, foreign students who are ignoring the terms under which they are in the country by working longer hours than allowed and others who, under any sensible licensing regime, would be considered unsuitable for this kind of work. Do they have a rickshaw rider recruiting office in Krakow, because their numbers seem to rise exponentially by the week?
The safety of these vehicles is horrendous, the Transport Research Laboratory looked at the possible safety implications of allowing the continued use of these vehicles for hire and reward in London. Its scientists warned that “any impact with a motor vehicle” was likely to result in ‘serious injury to both passengers and riders’. Transport Research Laboratory also warned that ‘The standard of braking for a Rickshaw fell well short of that expected of a car’. The London Taxi Drivers’ Association are calling on Westminster Council and the Greater London Authority to bring a halt to London’s further decline into third world status and seek statutory powers to ban Rickshaws from the streets. With health and safety becoming a mantra to every council employee, how is it that these contraptions are ever allowed to ply for hire in London’s streets? They congregate in large numbers outside theatres, shops and restaurants blocking the entrances and exits as well as the pavements outside, forcing pedestrians to negotiate the traffic as they walk in the road and blocking fire escapes.
As a result of the media attention into all the problems associated with the Rickshaws and serious concerns over their safety, the Rickshaw operators are pushing for a simple licensing system that would allow them to continue working unhindered. London’s taxi drivers along with bus operators and drivers have to contend with the traffic problems and congestion and feel that the only way forward is to – Ban! Don’t License.
Boris should stop worrying about his bike hire scheme and concentrated his attention on why London councils allow three or four children at a time to balance on these death traps and then be driven the wrong way up a one-way street.
I’m going to lay down now, I feel so tired after that rant, but I’ve got a good idea what will confront me when I wake.