Taxing times at Christmas…

Following the abrupt end to the holiday season, the kids have gone back to school and many of us have begrudgingly returned to work. The holidays seem but a distant memory.

However, my time off got me thinking about many things and as I stood outside shivering for the non-existent taxi that would never arrive to take me home in the early hours after my single night out during the holidays whilst waiting with the hundreds of other revellers doing the same, it reminded me of my travels across the UK and Europe last year were at the touch of a button using an Uber app a taxi would arrive, as I waited in warm comfortable civilised surroundings as a benefit off the late opening of premises in the UK and Europe to the point that I knew the exact second when the taxi would pull up outside the door and no hanging around in the cold.

I also reflected on the paradoxical (and comical) scarcity of taxi’s and the police campaign telling us that they would be launching their most ambitious anti drink drive campaign ever and I suddenly understood why the police have such a difficult job in policing drink driving given the temptation for people do stupid things when they can’t get home and have no other options available to them.

The satisfaction and amazement one experiences in the UK and Europe using Uber is something that most who live outside of Belfast will never experience in NI with our highly regulated, anti-competitive and overpriced taxi system, a system so antiquated at having a phone call answered by a taxi firm is a moment of euphoria in itself.

Now combine the scarcity of taxis with our nanny state and highly regulated licensing laws which results in everyone and I mean everyone, being put onto the streets at the exactly the same time to compete for what few taxi’s are available, many of who are worse for wear due to the culture of binge drinking that has now become engrained in our culture as a result of highly restrictive opening times in licensed premises as patrons try to get as many drinks in as they can. Again I had not thought too much about this until I read over the holidays that the GAA has acknowledged that binge drinking is now affecting elite footballers who are only given narrow windows during their footballing careers to have a drinking and socialise.

I want to live in a modern, socially liberal society just as people do in the UK, ROI and Europe, but sadly Northern Ireland is not such a place. Real change is long overdue.

Our politicians and civil servants could start by treating “adults” as funnily enough “adults” and reform our licensing laws so they are not as restrictive. They also could encourage the adoption of life changing technologies and industries where the benefits of change have been well documented and embraced across the rest of the world and stop trying to prop up time expired protected industries just because of historic political links.

I urge all readers to try the likes of Uber (other ride hailing apps are available) the next time they are visiting the UK and Europe as this will be the only way of experiencing first-hand how backward we have become here in Northern Ireland.

My New Year’s wish for 2020 is the ability to hail a cab safely using a ride hailing app at my time of choosing, whilst not being surrounded by worse for wear binge drinkers, but sadly I don’t think this will be happening anytime soon.

Photo by MichaelGaida is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA