London, United Kingdom (PressExposure) October 01, 2009 -- As a taxi driver in London, I often find myself with a big mixture of different clientele; Business men, holiday makers, the young, the old, and the whole gamete of society. Some of these come with the most fascinating stories to tell, where truth is often stranger than fiction. What I enjoy most about being a taxi driver is the freedom to travel various routes; up and down Piccadilly, over Knightsbridge, over Blackfriars Bridge at night, makes my heart swell with pride, patriotism beating in the breast of a proud Londoner.
Learning the knowledge was one of the most difficult things I had to do as a taxi driver. This is a special test that every taxi driver has to take before he can drive one of London's famous black cabs. It means as a taxi driver you can't stop rely on satellite navigation or ask a controller by radio where to deliver your passenger. It's hard work learning the knowledge, a skill that many try to learn but most fail.
The test dates back to 1865, and can take up to two to four years to pass the All London Knowledge, but once you get your licence you can work anywhere you choose in Greater London area. It is the world's most demanding taxi cab examination and it takes a driver an average 12 appearances before they pass the test. I remember taking it 9 times.
Nearly three quarters of those who start the course drop out, because the course involves heavy revision, preparation and drilling. I remember there were nights when I couldn't go over my revision notes; my mind was clouded with roads and streets. But it certainly paid off in the end. It has even been proved that cabbies that have spent over two years learning the knowledge have a larger hippocampus - an area associated with memory and navigation. They also found that the hippocampus grows larger the more time the cabbie spent on the job. I speak this from truth, my friends often remark that my memory is fantastic, a very handy skill to have when taking part in pub quizzes.
There are two distinct types of badges you will need if you want to drive about either London or the suburbs. London cabbies or green badge drivers needs to know detailed knowledge of every street road and landmark within a 6 mile radius of Charing Cross. This includes nearly 25,000 streets, 320 runs as well as all landmarks and places of interest. Believe me some of the routes I run, definitely requires this in depth knowledge.
Yellow badge drivers or suburban drivers can choose from London's nine suburban sectors, where they have to learn 30 to 51 runs, as well as places of interest and landmarks. It can take over 2 years to get your yellow badge.