I am sure by now that most of you must have seen or used one of the many Boris Bikes dotted around London. I am not going into whether they are a good thing or bad thing for London as I think that the Jury is still out on that!
The one thing that does concern me is the parking areas/docking stations for these bikes (or whatever you want to call them). Most of the parking areas seem to be within the confines of paved areas but they are some that are actually in the roadway. Now these bicycle parking areas are very similar to those within the paved areas except that they are protected by large black metal bollards. Now I was under the impression that any bollard that was in the roadway was supposed to be lit at night and clearly visible during the daytime.
Now if that is the case why have TfL decided to not only fail to light these bollards but also to paint them black? I don’t know if any of you have encountered any of these bollards on a dimly lit street but they can be quite a hazard especially as they just tend to blend into the black tarmac.
I would urge Boris and TfL to look at these bollards again and to give some thought to the motorists who have to negotiate their way around these bike parks and either light them up at night or paint them so that they can be clearly seen or better still both!
A friend recently suggested that I try the Mobile Me service from Apple, so off I went and duly installed the software on my main laptop and also on my iPhone. The idea is that this clever little piece of software automatically updates any calendar entries or contacts that you enter either into your phone or on your PC, great, this is going to save a lot of time syncing my phone with the laptop and will make sure that all of my information is always up to date.
Everything seemed to work as it should and so I went ahead and also installed Mobile Me on my wife’s laptop and also her iPhone, this little utility was going to save us so much time and hassle even though we would need to pay £60.00 per year for the service we felt it would be worth every penny spent. Now when my wife takes a wedding booking it automatically appears on my PC and also my iPhone, the only difference with her devices is that I did not set them to synchronise her contacts as she obviously did not want my contacts on her devices and I did not want hers.
Life was now good and a lot less hassle, no double booking of things and no confusion over dates anymore, great we both knew exactly where we supposed to be and when. Everything was fine until the Outlook.pst file on my laptop became corrupted! Well not too much of a hassle I thought, I would lose a few days emails but nothing too drastic
I went about setting up a new outlook.pst file and pointed outlook at this new file, I realised that I would lose all of my contacts from outlook but that would not be too much of a problem because as soon as I synced my iPhone they would all be restored, or that is what I though, I had not reckoned on Mobile Me getting there first and this is when my troubles started! Mobile Me has a facility on it to warn you when more than 25% of the related data will be changed on your PC but it has no such facility on the iPhone so what happened was as soon as Outlook found my new file it uploaded the new contact info (which basically consisted of no contacts) to Mobile Me, which then in turn Mobile Me synced with my iPhone and updated the contacts, so basically it erased all of my contact information, wonderful.
I am extremely lucky in the fact that I also have a Blackberry which also has all of my contacts stored, this device does not sync with Mobile Me so the information on there was safe. Now I had to go through the process of syncing the Blackberry with my Laptop to restore all of my contacts and then sync my iPhone with my laptop to restore all of the contacts once again. This could all have been avoided if the Mobile Me software had a warning on the iPhone that an enormous amount of data was about to be erased through Mobile Me, I would then have been able to select an option to tell the iPhone not to allow Mobile Me to erase my contacts, ah well lesson learned and let this also be a warning to other Mobile Me users.
Being a total gadget freak I do like to have a few things in the Taxi that will make my life easier whilst out working, things like an electronic A-Z, MP3 player, iPhone, PSP for amusing myself while in those long queues on a taxi rank, and of course the most controversial gadget the Sat Nav, (which to be perfectly honest I never use when in Central London).
The one thing that I have found to be invaluable in the Taxi for a number of years is the electronic version of the A-Z, I have had this running in my Taxi since 2000 in various different guises. Originally I had the A-Z software installed on an old iPAQ pocket PC along with Tom Tom, both of these pieces of software were the original versions that had recently come onto the market, i.e. Tom Tom was version 1 for the pocket PC and the A-Z software was the first version out.
I ran the A-Z like this for a couple of years until Dial a Cab installed their new terminals which were windows based and had A-Z software installed with a larger touch screen, this was obviously a welcomed addition to the DAC terminal and when I finally left the circuit in 2002 I really missed the A-Z on the larger screen! So I set about looking for a replacement to install in my Taxi.
The replacement to the DAC unit came in the form a computer in the mini-itx form factor, basically this is a small PC which is almost silent running due to having no fans installed, this would be coupled to an 8” Touch Screen from a company called Lilliput. The set up worked very well and having a PC in the Taxi offered other facilities such as MP3 playback, email facilities, Digital TV and also being able to watch DVDs whilst in the cab, this all made working in the cab a much more pleasant experience.
When I started to rent a few cabs out to other drivers I was changing the cab that I personally drove on a regular basis so I was unable to install the PC in another cab so the mini PC has now been relegated to my Off Road Discovery to use Memory Map on for our trips out.
Back driving the cab and I now miss having my electronic A-Z in the cab with me so I have recently installed and old O2 XDA with the Memory Map version of the A-Z installed which sits in the cab running the A-Z software continually, I did consider purchasing one of the new Cabbies Mate systems but felt the cost to be a little prohibitive considering that I don’t really drive the cab full time anymore.
The other new device that came onto the market that has transformed life as a Taxi driver are the current smart phones, these devices can perform a whole host of functions, the iPhone in particular has so many apps that can be used to make life as a taxi driver easier that you are really spoilt for choice as to which apps you use. There are even a couple of London Taxi apps, one is called London Taxi meter which is invaluable for estimating the metered fare for any given destination, it is even made easier by the fact that the iPhone already knows your current location so you only have to enter the customers destination and press calculate fare.
Other apps that are available include flight trackers for those who work the airport a lot, traffic programs and traffic camera apps, Google search is great for finding those small clubs that the punters expect you to know but are hidden down a back street somewhere.
Twitter is another app that has become widely used by London Taxi drivers and Taxi Drivers all over the World, it is a social media app that allows you to post status updates or Tweets as they are called. In London a Group Tweet facility has been set up where taxi drivers can Tweet information on traffic problems, work information and any other work related info that they see fit. The Tweet is sent to a specified account and the group tweet then sends the tweet back out again so it is viewable by all of the drivers following that account, the account is also obviously locked to prevent any unauthorised access by competitors or others who may wish to sabotage the information that is being passed between drivers.
Gadgets have definitely changed the way in which I drive a cab from when I first started 20 years ago, they have enhanced my working environment and made my life somewhat easier. But every upside always has a downside and in this case it is that punters also carry smartphones with them and they also have Sat Nav apps installed. On numerous occasions I have had a passenger in the back of the cab with a navigation app running on their smart phone trying to check that I am going the right way. This can sometimes be a little infuriating but at times can also be quite amusing, I sometimes ask the passenger whether they would like me to go the way that their navigation program is indicating as I know that the fare will almost certainly be more than had they left me to go the way that I had intended.
There is no doubt that the electronic wizardry that is now available to us at an ever decreasing cost will in the not too distant future change the way in which we drive our cabs, Sat Nav has definitely made those long jobs out of the Metropolis a lot easier as we no longer have to use a paper map and the host of Taxi Booking Apps that are coming out will change the way in which our passengers hail a cab and in how and where we pick our passengers up.
I received an email this morning explaining that TweetaLondonCab had dissolved their partnership with TaxiStop which I must say come as a bit of a surprise. I know that all of the people involved in TLC have put a lot of hard work and thought into the App that was supposed to have culminated from this partnership and that they have also been busy testing the App in its Beta testing stage before realising it to working Taxi Drivers and the general public, it must be so disappointing to them to have to end this partnership after all the effort, time and hard work and I know that there must have been some very strong reasons as to why they decided to take this drastic action.
I hope that the guys at TLC continue to promote the trade and not let this minor setback dampen their enthusiasm and that they will move on to bigger and better things in the future, hopefully new partnerships can be formed that will be more productive and fruitful for their hard work.
Well i have been rather busy over the past couple of months hence the reason that this blog has been somewhat neglected so to make it up to you all I have installed WP Touch which is a Plugin for WordPress which makes the site easier to view from a mobile device.
I hope that you all find the new style to your liking.