London Taxi Driver’s Warning About Bicycle-Based Future Backfires Spectacularly

The far-right Twitter user “polNewsNetwork1” shared an innocuous photo in 2017 taken by a New York City subway rider of a drag queen and a woman in a niqab, chirping: “This is the future that liberals want.”

The tweet was widely shared and wickedly mocked, with most respondents welcoming the photograph’s inclusivity.

This-is-the-future-that-liberals-want became an almost instant meme, and is still often trotted out today, mocking right-wing squeamishness.

The original poster, since suspended from Twitter, was trying to sow hatred and division by portraying an “everyday scene as being full of dark intent,” surmised Vox at the time.

Similarly, a tweet posted by a London taxi driver on July 31 has also backfired. Tweeting purloined photographs of Dutch parents ferrying their children on bikes and in the buckets of cargobikes @thomasthetaxi asked, “Is this what we really want to see on the morning school run?”

3,000 or so people replied “yes”—including Greater Manchester’s walking and cycling commissioner Chris Boardman and Brompton Bicycle’s managing director Will Butler-Adams.

In Twitterspeak, the knocking comment has therefore been “ratioed.” This is when a tweet attracts a higher ratio of pillory to praise via a greater number of replies compared to likes or retweets.

The tweet was such a massive “self-own”—a state when the original poster discovers that the only concept they’ve managed to denigrate successfully is their own—that many respondents assumed the Twitter user must be a parody account.

It’s not: @thomasthetaxi is the Twitter handle for Jim Thomas, a taxi driver with 6,600 Twitter followers, and who has been blogging as “Taxi Leaks” since 2011.

Yet such was the apparent spoofiness of Thomas’ tweet it attracted the attention of “Bob Gunderson,” supposedly an entitled American motorist but who, in reality, is a U.S.-based parody account with nearly 9,000 Twitter followers.

“What an abomination!” agreed the fake entitled motorist answering the real taxi driver.

“Why aren’t these kids strapped into a multi-ton, 300+ horsepower metal box going 70+ mph?” demanded @Bob_Gunderson in faux outrage.

I have reached out to Jim Thomas for his comments. Meanwhile, more self-owning by London taxi drivers was evident at a protest held on July 30 outside Islington Town Hall.

Reporting on the taxi-driver organized demo, André Langlois, editor of the Hampstead and Highgate Express tweeted that Islington’s “Upper Street is blocked right now by hundreds of protesters against Islington Council’s ‘people-friendly streets’ traffic measures.”

These proposed traffic measures will prevent motor vehicles from accessing some side streets, creating a “Low Traffic Neighborhood” by designing out “rat running.”

However, as many respondents to the tweet pointed out, the protestors (of which there were dozens rather than hundreds) were themselves guilty of blocking a road to motor traffic, and, in the process, they showed how the road was a quieter, more pleasant place without motor vehicles.

A taxi driver protestor stopped a young girl cartwheeling along the road and handed her a placard to hold for a protest photograph.

“It’s about the kids, mate,” said the photographer, shooing away a taxi driver trying to raise the placard higher.

The blocking of Upper Street was “like an ad for pedestrianisation,” wrote a respondent to Langlois’ tweet. “Look at them enjoying the sun, strolling about on the street, maybe spending a bit of cash in the shops, good stuff,” argued @jimbryant40.

Islington Borough Council has defended its plans to create a new low traffic neighborhood: “Islington’s people-friendly streets will help make it easier to walk, cycle, scoot, and use buggies and wheelchairs whilst making streets safer, more pleasant, and better-suited for social distancing.”

The council said its plans were in response to the government pandemic guidelines: “Local authorities must act now to avoid a dangerous rise in traffic as we come out of lockdown and make space for walking, cycling, and social distancing.”

People-friendly streets will also “bring important health benefits, be safer for residents to exercise in, better-suited for social distancing, and will bring cleaner air for those with breathing difficulties,” added the council.

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