An illuminated roof

It has probably not escaped your attention that recently the birth was announced of a Royal baby.

Now I’m all for technology as much as the next man but it seems to me some special events should be left to the traditional way we do thing here in Britain. The act of pinning the announcement to a rather flimsy easel by a Buckingham Palace aid was low key and very British.

[S]o when I saw the news broadcast from an illuminated banner on the roof of a London black taxi it seemed to me that was more akin to our colonial colleagues across the water driving yellow checker cabs in New York City.

On a trial approved by TfL 25 London cabs are driving around with digital roof top advertising. TaxiCast claims to be the world’s first regulated and approved illuminated taxi sign. It is a trial which over the next 3 months will deliver 2 million advertisements beamed down to Londoners from their lofty position.

Some advertisers have utilised this very intrusive form of advertising. Magnum ice-creams will miraculously appear when the sun is shining and temperatures rise above 16°C to remind us to eat their products.

All very clever but should the black cab be dragged into the 21st century? Surely much of what makes the ‘iconic’ black cab is that while it is a rather efficient mode of travel its look transports you back to an age of solid dependence and reliability.

First the traditional cab was allowed to be painted in any colour (Henry Ford must have turned in his grave when that was allowed). Next advertising was put on the sides swiftly followed by having the entire vehicle covered with placards. Soon this was not enough and the back window had some very clever membrane adhered to it which was opaque from the outside (allowing yet more bill boards), but the driver could use his rear view mirror.

How much further will this go, drivers wearing the uniforms of their sponsors? The cab is iconic because it is different it doesn’t look like a taxi found in other cities. Being traditionally black roots it firmly within the M25. If our trade, which dates back to the time of Oliver Cromwell, wants to remain distinctive and easily identifiable we should return to black.

8 thoughts on “An illuminated roof”

  1. I travel to London once or twice a year and make a point of taking at least one cab ride just so I can have a chat with the cabbie. I would NOT like to see London turning into NYC with an accent. It’s bad enough to see tarted up colors on cabs; the only point I can see to anything on a cab’s exterior beyond the roof light is the blurb that denotes cabs which take credit cards.

    Uniforms from advertising sponsors? Gee whiz, don’t give them any ideas!


    1. Thanks for your comment. I think we should retain the ‘traditional’ cab and there is a lot of mileage in the idea of going back to black with private hire being allowed any colour OTHER than black.


  2. I couldn’t agree more. If the London taxi is to be converted from various MPVs and vans then the lines between us and PH will be further blurred. Thus, all we can do is conform to a standard black colour with perhaps a yellow highlight somewhere.


    1. Yes continuing down this rocky road it will not be long before punters will be unable to differentiate between black cabs and all other modes of private hire.


  3. I am one of those who think that advertisers are allowed to go much to far in this country. I find it despicable that “sports” people can’t play tennis, football or cricket, unless wearing garments with adverts emblazoned on them. Calling this “sponsorship” does not disguise the crude money-grubbing greed of it.

    Equally, I think that public transport should not be (pardon the pun) a vehicle for advertising. I very much liked the number 30 bus called “Spirit of London” which, for a while at least, ran without advertising blemishing its sides. I am sorry it has disappeared from our streets and think it should be reinstated.

    Black cabs should be, well, black. In my view they should not carry any advertising at all, never mind extraneous advertising panels on the roof. Mini cabs are not allowed even to display their company name so why are cabs allowed to advertise? It’s pure discrimination.

    Advertising is distracting: it is designed to be so. We know that hoardings alongside roads cause accidents. How much more likely, then, is it that adverts on cabs and buses will distract drivers, especially as more and more of them comprises flashing lights and moving images?

    In writing this comment I have just wasted several precious minutes of my life because I know that no one will take any notice. Advertisers earn money for carrying advertising and no one is going to give up an opportunity to earn money while simply doing their job.


    1. That is a good point,yes there is discrimination between us and private hire. We can plaster our entire vehicles both inside and out with advertisements, while there is howls of protest from us if private hire so much as advertises themselves.

      I really think all ‘black cabs’ should be just that, and without our ubiquitous sponsors.


  4. I would have thought roof top advertising would have been something that appealed more to Americans than the British community. I can agree that it would work for food advertisements very well and not for products, however, as news billboards – they could draw a lot of attraction; bearing in mind the news being emitted is breaking. But I do agree that it throws off the look – it looks as awkward as putting a cone on top of a sphere. It should be utilised by more ‘casual’ cabs.


    1. Not only does it destroy the look of a London cab pedestrians staring at the advertisements could prove a danger.


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