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TAXI DRIVER ROUTE ANXIETY: Panic sets in as LTNs causes cabbies to second guess knowledge of streets

As more and more drivers return to work following the gradual easing of lockdown around the UK, many will be facing the challenge of the ever-evolving road layout, with a number of changes made by local authorities over the past 12 months.

It would be almost impossible for any driver to know all the changes that have taken place with the introduction of so many Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs), which in itself will no doubt cause anxiety in relation to which routes should be driven during a fare.

As a taxi driver of 10 years myself, I can honestly say that returning to work has definitely caused me a greater level of stress when considering which roads I’m going to use to get a passenger to their destination in the fastest possible time – and it’s not just me, many other drivers also face the same worries.

Any taxi driver worth their weight in gold will tell you that as soon as a destination is given by a passenger, their internal GPS system kicks into gear and a route is almost instantly mapped out in their brain – but what if the brain has not received those valuable updates for many months?

Panic mode can soon set in as you begin to second guess your knowledge of the streets. There’s not many things worse for a proud cabbie, than driving down a street to find there is no way through. The U- turn of shame is then required, or even worse, the reverse of shame, where you have to look back through the rear window while your passenger gazes at you as though you are clueless.

All jokes aside, ‘route anxiety’ is very real. It’s there with new taxi drivers, those finding themselves in certain areas of town they don’t frequently navigate, and now for those who are yet to fully educate themselves on current road systems.

Your little side road runs through cities are becoming a thing of the past, preventing cabbies from doing what they do best, finding the quickest route from A to B. Now it seems that rather than a taxi driver demonstrating his/her extensive knowledge of their respective licensing area, he/she is now bottlenecked into the exact same route as your everyday driver; this is not what passengers want or pay for, surely?

I want confidence in whichever route I choose to navigate for my customer; and right now, I can honestly say I don’t.

I have spoken with many taxi drivers in London over the past few weeks and the majority have confessed to suffering from similar anxiety caused by the changes in the road network; where do we go from here?

Well, me personally, I’ve chosen to take the route of speaking with the passengers at the start of a journey if we’re heading into a location which I know has had some major changes. Most of the time you will find that the passengers are very understanding, and will even guide you in through the last part of the journey if need be.

Of course, we also have GPS systems readily available on tap now, but from what I have learned over the years by the amount of packages I’m expecting which end up at a totally different address, digital mapping services are not always as reliable as one may hope; but nonetheless, it’s always an option.

The best way no doubt would be to go and learn all these new road systems, but it’s certainly time consuming and we all just want to get back to earning a living again! I suppose in time we will all learn one way or another which routes are no longer viable allowing us to avoid those embarrassing moments.

What is probably important to remember is that those moments of anxiety are perfectly normal when you consider the past year we’ve all had. Knowing that it’s not just you who suffers from them is also call for some comfort.

I’d just say there is no shame in not knowing the perfect route for all your fares especially as the speed of which these new Low Traffic Neighbourhoods have gone up is nothing short of remarkable; imagine if they could get some of the roadworks completed as quick, ay!


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