Plans to restrict the operation of black cabs in London will severely impact disabled people’s access to services in Hackney, according to campaigners.
Activists have hit back at claims made by Feryal Clark, a Labour councillor for Hoxton East and Shoreditch, who said that unrestricted access to black cabs is “not a human right”.
The chair of Transport for All, an organisation dedicated to championing the rights of disabled people, said: “The idea that black cabs are ‘not a human right’ is deeply offensive.
“Of course, it’s a human right. Why should disabled people be restricted where the able-bodied aren’t?”
Jimmy Teleford, 53, a wheelchair user and disability rights advocate for local charity Choice in Hackney, said: “For disabled passengers, there is no other choice [but to use black taxis].
“Lots of our service users use the black taxi card scheme and they’ll be affected and I suspect many of them don’t know about it. They’ll find out when they come to the end of their journey.”
“Anything that restricts where disabled people can be dropped off is bad news. I’m sure there will be many disabled people against the idea because it will stop them from taking part in their community,” he added.
The cuts are part of the Mayor’s plan to build an “ultra-low emission zone” to tackle air pollution. Whilst Transport for London has included an exemption for wheelchair accessible taxis- some borough councils have opted to ban cabs in their ultra low emission streets.
Drivers have argued the manoeuvre could disadvantage disabled passengers trying to reach their destination within the restricted zones, with many of them relying on the Taxicard scheme to move around the city.
Cab drivers are to enter their ninth week of protests as they try to halt the proposal which will see parts of the capital restricted to walking, cycling and “ultra-low emission vehicles”.
Grant Davis, 55, head of London Cabs Drivers Club (LCDC), said: “Black cabs are the only way disabled people can get from door to door in London.
“In my taxi, I pick up everyone from mothers with children, to elderly and disabled people. If you ban taxis from roads what you’re doing is banning our passengers, fellow members of the public, from having access to all these roads.
“I thought it was transport for all, I thought the members of the public in a wheelchair have the same rights to someone able-bodied who can walk.”
Driver, Garry Batter, also said: “There are 3.5 million people commuting to London every day and a lot of those people need transport door-to-door. I picked up a wheelchair passenger that said taxis are his life-line.”
Alan Benson, a Transport for All activist, said the plans to improve air pollution and congestion are “also beneficial for the disabled” but the unintended consequences could negatively impact their contribution to society.
According to Hackney council’s plan Shoreditch will no longer be accessible by most cabs, with many drivers complaining about how this “premature decision” will affect not only their performance and income but also passenger rights.
However Lee Sheppard, 49, a black cab driver and director of LondonTaxiPR, said that the argument would only stand up if 51 per cent of taxis were electric.
“To discriminate against the 95 per cent when actually only 5 per cent of them are electric puts pressure on drivers and passengers so we can’t go about fulfilling our job,” he added.
The Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) will be in place in central London from 8 April 2019 in the same area as the Congestion Charge.