By Koray Hussein
This has to be the very first review I’ve ever written where, from the very start, I’ve felt very reluctant. I’ve never been a massive fan of Uber. That may have something to do with the fact that I have quite a few black cab drivers in my family but in all honesty it’s probably because I look at London’s black cabs as something that this city should be very proud of.
The Knowledge (the course that black cab drivers need to take in order to become a black cab driver) is insanely difficult, with the hopeful cabbies learning 320 “runs” (routes) which are made up of 25,000 streets… and that’s not even taking into account the “points of interest” these guys need to cram into their memory.
Make no mistake about it, every single black cab driver with a green badge has had to memorise a shit-tonne of information, all so that we can get home from Tiger Tiger without falling into the Thames.
… But it’s gotten to the point where I can no longer just ignore Uber. It’s becoming so popular that it’s now as common to see someone waiting at the side of the street with their eyes fixated on their phone’s Uber app as it is to see someone trying to hail a bus when nowhere near a bus stop (I see this way too often)… So, like I said at the start of this review, even though I love the London black cab, I reluctantly gave the Uber “experience” a whirl.
If you’ve read my blog post on being an insomniac in London that went up a little while ago, you’ll know that I spend a lot of the early hours of the day up Central London. It’s the best time to get some snaps of the sleeping city and I honestly don’t think I’ll ever get used to how eerie it is to be standing at More London, looking up at Tower Bridge and The Shard without a soul around.
Sometime last week, I decided to head up Central at something-to-two in the morning… which was a little bit of a problem. The tube had stopped running by then and walking through (the unfashionable) part of East London to grab a night bus at 2am isn’t exactly a wise thing to do.
It was at this time that I remembered a friend telling me that there was a coupon where you can get £15 off of your first Uber ride which, promptly sent me Googling “Uber Coupons London” and finding exactly what I was looking for.
I installed the app on my iPhone (there’s an Android app too) and within a few taps on the screen, had selected the type of car I wanted to be driven in (the cheapest), my pickup location, my destination and even seen how long it will take for my driver to arrive. I’m yet to get used to the fact that I can prod my phone with an index finger (preferably my own) and see a pizza arrive at my front door in less than an hour, so this (even as a fan of the black cab) was hard not to be impressed by.
Inputting the coupon code was as easy as tapping the “Promo Code” button in the bottom right and inputting the code I had seen on-line.
Once the car had been requested I was shown exactly where the coming car was from and was given second by second updates every step of the way.
The original GTA style graphics continue once you’re picked up too as it switches to show you the route you’re going to take, where you are along the route and how long it will take for you to get to your destination.
I may sound like an old man here but I was genuinely having my mind blown by all of this.
The drive was pleasant and at the end I was given the option of rating my driver (five stars even though he wrongly told me that all black cab drivers were millionaires living in houses worth four or five million) and was told that the entire journey had cost me…£17.98 without the coupon and a ridiculously affordable £2.98p with.
That’s not bad at all. To go from as far east as you can possibly go into East London all the way to Tower Bridge at 2am in the morning and to walk away with only a £18 bill is pretty incredible and I can fully understand why Uber is pissing off so many black cab drivers.
I’m really torn by this whole thing as everybody needs to make a living and I 100% believe that when talking about London, the black cab is as iconic as the Houses of Parliament and Tower Bridge… But man, Uber is going to take some beating.