New York Has More SUV Black Cabs Than Efficient Yellow Cabs. This Is a Problem.

CC BY 2.0. Lloyd Alter

In New York City this week to discuss houses that save energy, I noticed that everywhere you looked, there were big black SUVs that use a lot of energy. They were traditionally livery or black cabs, really limousines for the one percent. But they are also beloved of Uber, and according to Kari Paul of Motherboard, there are now more of them than yellow cabs. "Uber now has 14,088 black and luxury cars across New York City, compared to 13,587 yellow cabs, numbers a TLC spokesperson confirmed to Motherboard by email."

So here is a city that insists that taxis all be accessible to the handicapped or hybrid and fuel-efficient, while the black cabs can be driving the biggest, fuel-guzzling vehicles on the road.


Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0But this is also a city that purports to support Vision Zero, a strategy for eliminating pedestrian deaths. Large SUVs and pickup trucks have almost three times the fatality rate as conventional cars in collisions with pedestrians, because of the design of their front end. And these things don't mix with cyclists either, they are big; riding Citibikes around Manhattan and into Brooklyn I found it almost impossible to get around them as they double parked everywhere. The rear view mirrors are at cyclist head height and I felt like a few of them were going to take mine right off as they passed. I know I am not a usual New York cyclist, but they are terrifying and intimidating as well as dangerous.

According to one study we quoted earlier,

statistics on deaths

© New Scientist

A pedestrian hit by a passenger car will, with luck (a relative term), be struck in the legs and sent over the hood. An LTV (light truck vehicle, which includes minivans, pickup trucks and SUVs) will probably strike a pedestrian with its blunt hood – for adults, at the level of the torso, home of the vital organs; for kids, the level of the head. The LTV will then knock 65 per cent of adults and 93 per cent of children to the ground, where they have a good chance of being run over.

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

To make it even worse, many of these SUVs have big bars stuck on the front. This make them particularly dangerous when they jump up on sidewalks and take out kids. After Victoria Nicodemus was killed by a driver in a curb-jumping giant SUV, commenters asked why these monstrosities are allowed on city streets.

I am asking the same thing. What purpose do they serve? They are not really more comfortable, they are hard to get in and out of because they are so high, they are not fuel efficient, they take up a lot of road space, they gulp down fossil fuels and put out far more pollution. New York City insists on low emission taxis. It is trying to make roads safer for pedestrians and and cyclists. Why are these allowed on City streets?