It’s been a long time since I have had a good moan about something. Though there are those close to me that would say otherwise!
However, I think I’m quite within my rights on this occasion. Now firstly, my gripe here is against those hackney cab drivers that don’t follow the rules. I have the utmost respect for those that do and I would always tip a driver that looks after me. It’s a shame that there are the odd bad apples out there masquerading as sensible, safe, law-abiding cab drivers.
This all started back in March when I’d been out with a couple of friends in Northampton town enjoying a quality pint of beer at the Maule Collective, this isn’t the BBC I’ll plug anyone I want. Because I’d been drinking and because the buses were no longer running I decided to get a cab home. I went to the head of the cab rank and asked the driver to take me to Duston. No problem he said, but to make things easier I’d need to cross the road where the curb is higher and easier for me to get into the cab. For those that may not have gathered I’m a wheelchair user so if the ramp into the cab isn’t so steep then getting into the cab is easier.
I crossed the road and the cab pulled up against the curb. The driver got out and pulled the ramp out and helped pushed me into the cab. Before I knew it he pushed the ramp back in, gone round the back of the vehicle to the driver-side, jumped in and drove off. Now, remember I’d had a few pints so I wasn’t my quick, sharp-minded, aware and observant self, so it wasn’t until he was going around corners that I realised that he hadn’t strapped my wheelchair down. I was about to bring this to his attention went he drove around a right-hand bend and I fell backward out of my chair. He stopped the cab, got out, and instead of opening the door opposite to help me back into the chair he opened the door I was falling against. No points for guessing what happened next! Yes, you got it. This resulted in me falling out of the cab onto my back. I was now laying partly on wet pavement with my legs falling into the gutter. He was clearly panicking at this point as he was now trying to manhandle me back into the cab. He called a passerby to help him get me back into the back of the cab but that made it worse as they had no idea what they were doing. I kept on telling them that they were hurting me but it seems that the drivers’ only objective was to get me back in the cab. Now I’m not one to panic but I was getting very concerned over this cab drivers attitude towards my safety but then, fortunately, the cavalry arrived!
A passing police car stopped and two offices come to help me. I pointed out to them that the cab driver hadn’t strapped me down and that’s why I was laying on the side of the road, legs in the gutter! The police were brilliant, took the cab drivers details and his can number so that I could follow it up with the county council and then called another cab, who did strap me down. The cab got me home and the police followed to make sure I got indoors ok.
Now, wind forwards a couple of weeks and I’m in the same situation, no busses, and only hackney cabs, although this time no beer was involved! I approached the first cab but before I asked him to take me anywhere I ask if he was equipped with suitable straps to hold my wheelchair firmly in place. His reply was not what I wanted to hear, “sorry, I’ve lent them out to a friend“. So I approached the second cab on the rank, his answer was the craziest of excuses I’d ever heard, “I can’t be bothered… anyway, you have the wrong type of wheelchair!“. I asked him what he meant by this and he said, “there’s no hook at the back“. I said, and I must admit I did swear at this point, “I’m not landing on a f$%^&£g aircraft carrier!”. Another cab driver said that he’d never been supplied with any straps, another told me that the normal safety belts that come with the cab would do ok. All in all, nine cabs didn’t have the right type of straps to ensure I was firmly strapped down but the scariest thing of all every one of them was willing to take me in their cab!
I decided to do a bit of sleuthing around and to my amazement in the ‘HACKNEY CARRIAGES BYELAWS. CONDITIONS, RELEVANT LEGISLATION, AND GUIDELINES’ it only advises hackney cab licensees that they ‘secure the wheelchair and suggest that the passenger also uses the seat belt provided (they may need your help with this)‘. This is just advice, yet in the PROVISIONS REGULATING HOW HACKNEY CARRIAGES ARE TO BE FURNISHED OR PROVIDED
‘3. The proprietor of a hackney carriage shall:-
(g) provide means for securing luggage if the carriage is so constructed as to carry luggage;’
So it seems that a ‘Louis Vuitton’ get’s more attention and looking after than a pissed old fart in a wheelchair!