Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The Knowledge Boy

Road closed.  Diversion signs.  All in the day's work for a London black cab driver and he or she will know the best  alternative route to go. Follow that arrow as it points towards the stationary scooter rider and this is where that knowledge will start.  To get a licence to drive a taxi in London you have to be able to find a route without looking at a map or relying on a sat nav and  pass "The Knowledge".   Our scooter driver is learning to do just that and is a Knowledge Boy learning the routes with his clipboard fixed to the handlebars showing the routes to be learnt that day.
He will have to learn 25,000 streets within 6 miles of Charing Cross and  major arterial routes, points of interest (hospitals, hotels, theatres, squares etc), traffic signals, cross junctions, roundabouts and know what is alongside at all points.  This Knowledge Boy was making notes and memorising, oblivious to the lines of traffic passing
The Knowledge test was started in 1865, the days of the hansom cab when only the clip clop of horses feet were heard in London.  Today it starts with a written test and then will need at least 12 appearances (attempts at final test) after preparing for an average of 34 months learning 320 standard routes or runs in central London when the Blue Book "Guide to Learning the Knowledge of London" will be their constant companion, until they pass the exam and can gain a license to drive a taxi cab.
Here is another Knowledge Boy where the clipboard routes of the day can be seen.  I was surprising that I accidentally managed to get a better picture of this with a moving target than one that was stationary.  Then I thought I would finish this post with a photo of a London black cab taxi but realised I'm usually trying to avoid cabs and cars when trying to photograph London architecture.  I've got a lot of half cabs disappearing or appearing the edges of photographs but managed to find one picture where it is just in shot,  taken  late on a winter's afternoon. 
Research has found that London taxi drivers have a larger hippocampus (the part of the brain that deals with spacial memory and navigation) than the general population.

An entry to ABC Wednesday, a journey through the alphabet, sojourning this week at K here


Reader Wil said...

Thank you for this educational post. I knew that cabdrivers had to do a very difficult examination and to learn all streets of London, but that boys on scooters had to the same is new to me.

Have a great week.
Wil, ABCW Team.

Joy said...

I seem to have spread confusion by lack of a sentence Reader Wil so I have updated this post which hopefully clears up the fact that our scooter riders are training to be those very taxi drivers. Thanks for mentioning it.

photowannabe said...

Utterly fascinating. 3 years of study to drive the black taxi.
No where that I'm aware of do they have to do any learning besides driving a car in the U.S.
So many SHOULD. they know practically nothing about their areas.

Roger Owen Green said...

Hope he's not reading while driving!

Snapperoni :: Photography said...

I never knew London cab drivers had to undergo such training. (Here, anyone with a license can drive a cab -- and in the case that they are unfamiliar with the routes, the passenger can tell them which roads to take!) Very informative post, next time I'm in London and see one with a clipboard on his scooter I'd know what he's training for.:D

ellen b. said...

I really enjoyed reading about this. Having to navigate around the sea of humanity and vehicles in London makes this kind of training brilliant!

magiceye said...

Oh wow! Tough to be a cabbie in London!

Anita said...

Joy, Such great info with cool pics! We do have our own navigation system in-built.
Even birds have it! Great GPS :)

Trubes said...

Hello Joy, I did know about The Knowledge Test but didn't realise it was so intricate.
Interesting that those who pass the test have a certain part of their brain called the hippocampus that is larger than normal, thus enabling them to retain so much knowledge.
I remember the London taxi driver called 'Fred Housegood', winning Mastermind, a few years ago, he was brilliant.
It is also noted that the London taxi driver have well formed opinions about all and sundry....must lend to an interesting journey!
Best wishes,

Beverley Baird said...

This is all new knowledge! Great informative post!