London cabbies protest Olympic 'Games Lanes' exclusion
Published Monday, July 23, 2012 12:27PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, July 23, 2012 9:58PM EDT
Days before the London 2012 Olympic Games are set to begin, a different kind of competition is playing out on the city’s roadways.
Taxi drivers in London have been fighting for access to special “Games Lanes” dedicated to Olympic traffic, arguing that their exclusion from the lanes will negatively affect business.
The lanes, which are marked by a white Olympic rings stencil, are reserved for Olympic athletes, team officials and other VIPs such as referees and the family members of athletes.
To protest their exclusion, hundreds of drivers for London’s famous black cab service protested Monday while crossing Tower Bridge and major downtown intersections. Together they blasted their horns and drove slowly in Parliament Square, snarling traffic behind them.
One driver even jumped off Tower Bridge into the River Thames to express his anger. He was quickly arrested by police.
The drivers say the lane restrictions aren’t fair.
“They’re letting everyone else into the lanes -- the buses, the cycles, the pedicabs-- everyone else except for us,” one frustrated driver told CTV News.
The drivers say the restrictions will make their trips longer, driving up the price for the customer. They fear this will keep people from taking cabs.
“I feel that a lot of people won’t use London cabs because of the expense, because of the difficulties that we’ll have from getting from A to B,” said driver Stella Wood.
The London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) introduced the lanes as a way to ensure that “London keeps moving” during the games. City cabbies, however, say their exclusion from the lanes will hamper their ability to get around.
“This is a working city and we need to get around and do our job,” Jonathan Myers of the United Cabbies union told The Associated Press last week.
Traffic congestion is expected to choke roadways in the U.K. city as an estimated half a million people arrive for the London 2012 Olympic Games, which begin July 27 and run through Aug. 12.
The first dedicated Olympic lane has already opened near Heathrow Airport, while the rest are expected to open two days before the 2012 Games begin.
The LOCOG says the lanes have only been set up on the busiest parts of the Olympic Route Network, a 175-kilometre long web of routes intended to help officials move through city. The Games Lanes account for about a third of the network, or 48 kilometres.
Approximately 82,000 VIPs are expected to use the Olympic Route Network during the 2012 Games.
The concept of temporary “Games Lanes” was used most recently during Olympic Games in Beijing (2008), Athens (2004), and Sydney (2000).
Calls to London’s Licensed Taxis Drivers Association and London Black Cabs from CTVNews.ca were not returned.
With files from CTV’s Tom Walters and The Associated Press