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Friday, August 23, 2013
CABS GONE WILD
Even though I hung up my cab-driving spikes many years ago, I'm still close enough to the industry via old friends and my credit union to know that driving a cab in New York City is still no walk in the park. Yes, the rates have skyrocketed to nearly twice what they were when I drove...but the fundamentals still apply. Driving a taxi in New York is a rough row to hoe (pardon the expression) as evidenced by the last two days' events which depict in no uncertain terms just how rough and ready it can get out there.
The first incident took place on 6th Avenue in the 40's. Apparently, some altercation between a cabby and the ubiquitous "there are no rules that apply to me" bicycle messenger ended in a taxi jumping the curb and tearing the leg off a British tourist. And then at 1 AM the next day, two cabs competing for a fare tangled up sending one careening into 990 6th Avenue, coincidentally a building which has housed many Korean and Chinese escorts and agencies over the years.
Since I drove, cabbies face two relentless realities which are slowly making the job even more maddening than before. First is the constriction of all the arteries through which the cabby corpuscles flow in the form of bike lanes. Losing a lane - and effectively - 25% of the roadway on 1st, 2nd, 6th, 8th and 9th Avenues, has slowed traffic commensurately making it more and more agonizing to ferry people about the metropolis.
And second, is the city's similarly relentless addition of new medallions to the fleet. For 60 years after the Haas Act of 1938 (which established that NYC would have 11,787 yellow taxis), the number of medallioned vehicles remained the same. That number has grown to 13,237 in recent years and is expected to rise in the near future if the Mayor has his way! And that translates into more empty cabs and fiercer competition in the streets - especially in the middle of the night when 10 taxis come roaring down the avenue looking for that elusive one fare to finally break what can easily be a 45 minute drought at that time of night.
If history is any indication, what will happen as a result of these two incidents will be stricter enforcement of speed limits on cabs (just like what happened 20 years ago when after a similar incident in which two cabs collided while competing for a fare NYPD wrote thousands of speeding tickets to slow cabbies down) and an inevitable crackdown on bicyclists which in the opinion of many people is a long time coming!
Not driving a cab anymore, I look forward to law enforcement reigning in cabbies. After all, I don't want to get killed on my bike by a speeding taxi driver searching for a fare. On the other hand, stricter bicycle rules won't be to my liking but the inevitability is undeniable given the division of new bicyclists in New York City. Whereas hookers used to clog certain street areas late at night in Manhattan, bikes (and bike lanes) have now taken their place 24/7. As Bob used to sing "The times they are a changin'." Of that there can be no doubt.
My heart goes out to the girl who lost a leg and had the other badly injured on her first day in New York. Horrible! Hopefully it won't happen to any of us in the future.