The UK’s Worst Places to get a Taxi

We’ve all been there, stood in the taxi queue after a night out waiting in the cold for what seems to be hours clutching our takeaway and hoping to be next in the queue soon. Not being able to get a taxi is generally worse on an evening but day in day out, people struggle to catch a lift throughout the UK. Research by Cab Direct has found that some places in the UK it can be more difficult than others, here’s an overview of the worst places to catch a ride:

Swansea

Coming out worst in the polls was Swansea, where the ratio of people per taxi was significantly low. The Welsh town is the second largest city in Wales, so should have a much higher ratio than the shocking 439 people per taxi that is available. It looks like if you’re heading to Swansea this weekend you need to be prepared to hop on the bus or stay somewhere in walking distance of the city.

Darlington

If you’re needing a taxi in the North East, you’ll be waiting a while. Disabled travellers needing a wheelchair accessible cab in the Darlington area were found having to wait the longest for a vehicle with there only being 1 taxi available for every 11,694 people, making the odds of people being able to catch a cab when they want one significantly low. However, for people wanting to catch a standard taxi the chance of hopping in a cab when you need one are much higher with a ratio of 229 people per taxi.

York

The charming cobbles of York are walked far more often than residents would like thanks to a ratio of only 1 taxi per 349 residents, making jumping in a taxi a rarity. In such a popular tourist destination, this is quite surprising considering how many people visit the popular city year upon year, there’s clearly an opening for potential taxi firms with so many tourists and students in heading into the city.

Unsurprisingly, the places that came up trumps were the UKs biggest cities where the ratio of taxis to people was much more even with London leading the way. Closely behind were the northern cities of Manchester, Newcastle, and Liverpool where taxis arrived much more often meaning that residents and visitors alike had a good chance of getting both a wheelchair friendly taxi and a standard taxi exactly when they wanted one.

Getting a Cab in the UK

Getting a Cab in the UK

The Origin of the Chain

Humanity is so familiar with chains – we see them and use them in hundreds of applications throughout our lives – that it may come as a surprise to find that they are a relatively recent invention.

The word “chain” itself is a derivation of an ancient Indo-European word and the earliest known use of a metal chain is that of a well-bucket chain made from linked metal rings back in 225BCE. The use of chains developed alongside humanity’s growing expertise in metalworking and these early chains would have been prized for their vastly superior resistance and longevity compared to the ropes made from animal skins and plant fibres.

Nowadays our industries still make use of chains, although they’ve evolved somewhat! There are heavy duty chains capable of withstanding caustic and abrasive environments, as well as temperatures of up to 530C, such as the chains used in lime production. A far cry indeed from a hessian rope!

Da Vinci’s ideas

Back in the 16th century, genius inventor Leonardo da Vinci made several sketches and plans for what seem to be the first steel chains. These chains appear to have been designed for a pulling application rather than a wrapping application because they have plates and pins only, as well as metal fittings. The sketch does reveal a roller bearing ensemble as well, though, and it’s not dissimilar to bearings used today!

leonardodavinci

As was often the case with the Italian genius, da Vinci found his ideas were way ahead of their time. The technology to realise and produce the concept was limited by the restrictions on the production and processing of steel itself. Thankfully, innovations in the 19th century made steel manufacture and processing easier and more sophisticated so that it was possible to make chains and bearings much more accurately and uniformly. In 1832, a French inventor called Gull was awarded a patent to make a chain similar to a modern-day bicycle chain and the so-called Gull chain is still used today in hanging and suspension applications.

Chains take off

With the invention of the moulded chain in the 19th century, chain technology started to advance more rapidly. Next in line was the cast-detachable chain, made from cast links that are identical in shape and dimension. Then came the pintle chain, which features a separate pin. Both types of chain, cast-detachable and pintle, have been refined and improved over the decades, as you no doubt imagine and they are still in use today in some industries. They are gradually being replaced, however, mainly by large pitch steel conveyor chains.

By the late 19th century, the bushing came along to change the chain industry further. Chains that featured bushings had much greater resistance to wear then the Gull chains because the bushings provided a bearing to protect the pin. This is when chains really started to develop and to be used in more and more industries and applications. Steel bushing chains were used in bicycles, as well as in the rear-wheel drive of early cars and even in the propeller drive of the Wright Brothers’ 1903 aeroplane.

Why drink driving doesn’t have to mean a ban: three questions to ask

A lot of people think that drink driving is the end of the world, and it’s understandable given the list of penalties that could be handed to you. Depending on the severity of the offence, it could be a fine, a custodial sentence or a disqualification that awaits you if convicted, but it’s important to know that there may be defences to the charges. Here are three questions you should be asking yourself if you’ve been caught drink driving.

Was the equipment faulty?

If you’ve been left with your head spinning following a drink driving charge because you thought you were below the limit, then you aren’t alone. There have been hundreds of occasions over the years where people have driven in peace of mind knowing that they are well below the legal limit. However, they’ve been shocked and embarrassed when pulled over and breathalysed, only to find that the reading is over.

There can be several reasons for this, and a competent motoring lawyer will be able to help you identify them in order to put forward a defence. On the one hand, given that these cases rely on pieces of electronic equipment, which can produce faulty results, the possibility of a technical failure is fairly high. On the other, there are actually three different machines used by the police to measure limits, and each of them require different instructions. If the police who stopped you do not give you the correct instruction it can result in the machine aborting and no reading being produced. In such cases charges of failure to provide specimens can be defended.

 Was correct procedure followed?

 When stopped on suspicion of drink driving a requirement to provide breath, blood or urine samples will normally follow. If samples are not provided this normally results in a charge of failure to provide a specimen without reasonable excuse. However, people may be charged with this offence when they were completely unaware that they had failed to provide anything, and if you don’t have the right solicitor to support you, you could end up with a conviction for a crime you did not commit.

For example, if you were involved in an accident and were taken straight to hospital, doctors and nurses do not follow the same procedure and do not require breath specimens for analysis as normally occurs at the police station. In such situations a proper assessment must be made of whether you have sufficient capacity to understand the requirement for a blood or urine specimen and to provide valid consent.

Who is representing you?

 The final thing you should ask yourself is: who is my lawyer? Without the right team behind you, you won’t know where to begin building a case for any of the defences described above. You should look for lawyers who have experience of situations you find yourself in and that you’re able to view on their website.

Do you have any other advice for motorists? Leave a comment below.

Signs of Confusion?

The British have always been great travellers with some of the world’s most famous explorers hailing from our shores: Sir Francis Drake, Sir Walter Raleigh and Captain James Cook to name but a few who faced incredible dangers in uncharted territories with constant threats from disaster, disease, wild animals and hostile locals. It seems that Brits have been successful in reaching every corner of the globe (assuming that globes actually have corners!) but there is one peril that these heroic globetrotters did not have to face but one that lies in wait for any unwary modern-day British traveller brave enough to venture from these sheltered isles. That danger arises from the apparent inability of the British to understand other countries’ road signs.

Of course any traveller needs to understand a little of the local lingo even if such knowledge is limited to STOP, LEFT and RIGHT but it seems that most confusion arises with the signs containing pictures or symbols. Although there have been moves towards standardisation of road signs for many years (a protocol to which the UK did not sign-up), there remains much national diversity and there are even some signs which have different meanings in different countries. This failure to understand, and consequently not to follow, the instructions given by these signs has been cited as one of main causes of accidents abroad and this fact has been recognised by overseas car-hire companies who are now imposing additional insurance requirements on British drivers who they regard as being a bad risk. This may slightly dent the pride of our usually well-respected motorists but insurance companies report that the countries from which the most accident claims originate are: Spain, France, Italy, Portugal and Australia. The latter, being an English speaking country, may be surprising and many visitors from the UK expect driving here to be just like at home, with the possible exception of a few signs showing Skippy bouncing across the road, and are not prepared for some of the unusual road signs. The Australian sign for “The Road Ahead Will Change” is a classic example of a sign where the image seems to bear no resemblance to the message it is purporting to convey. It seems that you really need to think Australian to fully understand the logic. Some of the Icelandic signs are also highly symbolic rather than pictorial so need to be carefully studied.

Both in the UK and overseas, there are also signs which are unlikely to have any relevance to the average motorist such as the prohibition of vehicles carrying explosives but the whole business of understanding other countries’ road signs is a matter which should be taken very seriously and some, such as those advising which roads are “priority routes”, inform drivers as to who has the right of way and abiding by this is almost as important as driving on the correct side of the road.

The most important thing is to recognise which signs are concerned with road safety and which are simply providing information about local facilities. In France for example a sign simply showing the letter é over a silhouette of a village church simply indicates the location of a stop-over village (Village Étape) and a single letter t indicates the toll booth location for season ticket holders. It may be some consolation to know that French drivers’ knowledge of some of these minor signs is not much better than that of UK drivers.

It should always be remembered that UK road signs are probably just as confusing to overseas visitors and we can only wonder what a Renault-driving Frenchman would do when confronted with a sign saying “FORD”.

So, whatever country is to be visited, some time should be taken to become familiar with that country’s road signs and, if it has been some time since a driving test was passed, it would do no harm at all to also study the latest UK road signs as their numbers also steadily rise. The realisation that most of the important overseas road signs are intuitive comes as something of a relief to those with limited language skills and the few which are symbolic rather than pictorial can easily be learnt. Driving in a safe and considerate manner should be no more difficult overseas than at home and will win the respect and appreciation of local motorists. It also enables such trips to be fully enjoyed, carrying on the British tradition of travel and exploration. Take a look at the coop’s infographic:

Road signs

Options for Buying a Used Car

With new car sales reaching record levels, the used car market is currently awash with vehicles including some real gems but buying a used car is, as it always has been, fraught with danger and great care is needed to avoid the pitfalls. The world it seems is full of used cars and so, after deciding on the make and model, it is time to get down to the serious business of car buying. Some of the car buying options are as follows:

Buying from a Dealer

This is the traditional way of car buying that has been around for as long as cars themselves. The main advantages of this method of car purchase are that a reputable dealer will have been able to thoroughly check the condition of the car and remedied any defects. It will also have been subjected to a check regarding any outstanding finance or previous insurance history. Some warranty is almost always available and trade sales are also subject to some legal protection. An added convenience is that a dealer will usually accept a trade-in vehicle and will also probably be able to help arrange with finance if required. The main problem with this type of sale is that the car will invariably be offered at “full book price” which is dictated by the motor trade publications. Most car dealers are completely trustworthy but it is still important to buy only from an established dealer with a good reputation.

For buyers in the Greater London area there are some new and interesting options in the ‘dealer’ category.  The well known hire company ‘Hertz’ is now selling their used cars in London from several locations and the proposition of buying from such a well known entity comes with obvious trust and quality benefits.

Buying from a Private Advertisement

Private car ads can be found all over the place from cards in shop windows to local papers and sites such as Autotrader. The main advantage of buying in this way is that, by cutting out the middle-man, both the buyer and seller can end up getting a better deal but, from the buyer’s point of view, any initial savings can easily be overshadowed by huge costs only coming to light later. Private sales are not covered by the provisions of the Sale of Goods Act and the seller has no responsibility for any future faults or defects. Buyers are also strongly advised to pay for an HPI check in the same way that dealers do. Failure to do so could result in the purchase of a car that had previously suffered accident damage or, in the case of outstanding finance, the car could even be repossessed.

Buying from the Internet

Here we are entering dangerous territory. Internet sales sites such as eBay have revolutionised the way that we buy and sell and many second-hand items are identical so a bargain is easy to spot. Unfortunately the same cannot be said about cars. Anyone buying a used car needs to thoroughly inspect it in person, drive it and carry out all of the aforementioned checks regarding its legitimacy. Only then is it possible to determine what a fair price would be. All too often, bids are placed in an eBay auction based on the seller’s description and a few, often not very good, photos. The results of such folly are fairly predictable with many disappointments and uncompleted sales. Some people have managed to find some exceptional bargains in this way but it must be said that this is due more to good luck than good judgement.

Buying from Car Auctions

Auctions can be fun and prices can be completely unpredictable. Car auctions have previously been regarded as being strictly for the motor trade often used to dispose of vehicles regarded as being unsuitable for normal retail sale. Some vehicles may have faults and require some repair work attracting buyers capable of carrying out such work. Prices are generally well below the normal forecourt prices meaning that there is often the potential to make a profit on subsequent re-sales. The smart auction buyer will carry out plenty of research about the lots offered in the sale and some auction houses have sales of “end of lease” vehicles including some from the “Motability” scheme. Some such vehicles can be found in “as new” condition with very low mileages and are well worth considering. However, even when buying a very good car at auction, there is very little comeback if things go wrong later. Even when an auction lot is described as coming with a warranty this bears little resemblance to to that offered by a car dealer and will normally only be valid for a period of one hour after the completion of the auction. This gives the purchaser the chance to quickly drive and thoroughly inspect the car before the sale becomes absolute.

So used car buying is not for the faint hearted. Those with little experience or mechanical aptitude are best sticking with a reputable dealership. The more mechanically minded may prefer to seek out a bargain but whatever buying option is chosen it is always wise to remember the buying mantra Caveat Emptor … Let the buyer beware!