Meet the London taxi driver who is fighting to tackle air pollution

A London cabbie inspired to change his working habits in an attempt to reduce emissions has lamented the “minority” of taxi drivers who seem unwilling to tackle the issue.

Nigel Kirk, a 50-year-old black cab driver from Willesden, became passionate about improving London’s toxic air after reading about environmental issues and joining a cycle campaign Facebook group - writes

He said he now changes his working habits to ensure he rarely drives around empty and turns off his engine when waiting for customers rather than cruising around central London.

But Mr Kirk, who has been a cabbie for 12 years, said he becomes frustrated that some vocal cab drivers are resistant to change – despite the cars being responsible for a fifth of pollution.

Some cabbie campaigners have hit out at decisions to make Bank Junction traffic-free to protect cyclists and improve air quality.

Others have also been criticised for a series of TfL or Uber protests in which they sat in their stationary vehicles with the engines on – emitting fumes - in the most polluted parts of London.

And most recently an environmentalist and outspoken critic of the diesel cabs revealed that he had been subjected to online abuse by some cabbie Twitter accounts.

“As a cab driver you do get fed up and I am sure that it is the same for people of all professions when a minority give you a bad name,” Mr Kirk told the Standard.

“We are not all like that though. It really is a minority. And I have not always had these views but I think it comes to everybody with education – you begin to read stuff and realise how important it is.

Father-of-two Mr Kirk, who had originally moved to London in the hope of working for the Met police before discovering he was colour blind, added: “I think the thing isno matter what your job is everybody breathes in the same air in London so we all have an invested interest in making it clean.”

He said that in order to reduce his carbon footprint he tries to avoid driving round with an empty car and instead targets train stations where there is space for him to park up and tun his engine off.

He also said that, by doing so, he was able to have more customers in the car thus making the journey more efficient.

But he said there are other things that could be done to help other drivers do the same.

“One thing I would like more of is cab ranks in the West End so you can park and turn your engine off. They have some but they are small so not many cars park there.

“Then you have to drover further out to find them. Yes sometimes on these journeys you do pick up people but it would be better to have more places to park.”

Last month, cab drivers were offered a £1,550 incentive to dump dirty diesels in a move to help clean up London’s air in the form of a tax break.

The Exchequer is scrapping a Vehicle Excise Duty surcharge for new electric cabs purchased from April onwards.

In addition to being exempted from the £310 a year charge, which is imposed for five years on all cars costing over £40,000, cabbies stand to gain £400 a month in fuel savings.

Steve McNamara, General Secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association said that air pollution in London is at "crisis levels" and called for "urgent action".

"London’s black cab trade is already working to help tackle the capital’s air pollution," he said. "We are proud of individual taxi drivers doing their bit.

"Every new taxi you’ll see on London streets can run on electricity. However, we need more rapid electric charging points across London to power the new zero-emission capable cabs”.

A spokesman for the Mayor's office added: "Sadiq has opened 90 new taxi ranks to support black cabs since he became Mayor. This is 90 per cent of the way to achieving his target of increasing the number of taxi ranks from 500 to 600."

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