Taxi Noir: The Fifteen-Minute Village
Some folk are floating the concept of the “15-minute village”. With travel demonised, there’s growing support for people to stay at home and travel no further than fifteen minutes’ walk away. The Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, supports the idea. As in London, the Parisian authorities have put in cycle lanes and jigged around with car parking in order to make the environment as hostile as possible to drivers. I’m unsure whether the movement has the support of London’s mayor, but none of us would be surprised should he jump on the fifteen-minute eco-friendly village bandwagon in the near future. The fifteen-minute rule would phase out motor vehicles, but of course allow cycles. At present it’s just an idea. Wishful thinking. It’s unlikely to become law, but just for fun, let’s look at how things could work out in a town where you live…
If forced to stay within fifteen minutes’ walk from my home, there’s no way I’d be allowed to drive a cab in and out of London like I used to. It also rules out a dramatic return to the life of a Knowledge examiner (I always hold out for the call, but it never comes). If no-one was allowed to travel more than fifteen minutes from their home, Central London would be dead, especially for cab-driving purposes. From Piccadilly Circus you’d have a catchment area extending to a few blocks of flats in Mayfair.
In a fifteen-minute walk I can just about be in Leighton Buzzard town centre. In order to stay in compliance of any new laws there are a handful of local jobs I could apply for, if anyone was hiring. I could work behind the bar of one of my favourite pubs, become an Indian waiter, be a shop assistant, a market trader (Tuesday & Saturday only), or work in a bank. I’m afraid that doesn’t really do it for me. The model railway shop might be interesting, but I shouldn’t think it’d pay well. The Post Office might be a bit nicer than a bank, but I failed the counter clerk aptitude test back in 1979 and I’m not at all confident I’d pass it now. I never fully got to grips with maths, and drawing on my previous experience as a cab driver can only think in twenty pence increments. As for pub work, I’m only suited to the role of a customer. Like many people, in moments of weakness I fantasise about running a country inn, but I’m off the scaIe for introversion, and definitely no socialite. Twenty minutes in a cab with a stranger is enough to bear. I couldn’t take a whole evening of it. There’s Leighton Buzzard Brewery, but I suspect there’d be stiff competition to find a job there. I had little success with my home-brewed Lockdown Ale earlier in the year, and if asked about converting enzymes I’d quickly be found out to be a chancer.
With pubs, restaurants, and all the interesting shops closed, there’s not much reason to walk fifteen minutes in any direction at the moment. Hopefully, the shops, pubs and restaurants will re-open at the start of December. I don’t think the government would dare cancel Christmas. The Prime Minister has just about got the consent of the nation on Covid restrictions, but that consent is finely balanced. The economy is in ruin, and I don’t think people would accept any more restrictions. I certainly won’t be restricting myself to fifteen-minutes’ walk of my home either: I’ve holidays to re-schedule and pubs to visit. I’m sure my first visit to the pub after a month would have been worth waiting for. I’ll celebrate it by putting the Christmas tree up.