How the Taxi of Tomorrow Can Make Cycling Safer

Image: TLC
Of the three Taxi of Tomorrow finalists, the entry from Turkish manufacturer Karsan (left) is the one without sliding passenger doors. Image: ##

More than 13,000 yellow cabs ply NYC streets, carrying more than 600,000 passengers each day. That’s a lot of chances for a familiar risk to city cyclists — car doors opening in traffic.

The city’s Taxi of Tomorrow competition promises to select a single design for the entire yellow cab fleet. In the process, the cab door threat could be standardized out of existence (or at least drastically reduced). The competition is down to three finalists, and if you ride in the city, there’s one feature in particular that you may want to weigh in on: Whether the passenger doors slide open or open on a hinge.

The Design Trust for Public Space and the Taxi and Limousine Commission are asking New Yorkers to fill out a quick survey about what you want out of the next-gen taxi, which you can fill out here.

We checked in with the TLC, and two of the three designs — from Nissan and Ford — have sliding doors. The third finalist, from Turkish manufacturer Karsan, is the only vehicle designed specifically for the competition and has the aura of a plucky underdog, but the current design features hinged doors. A spokesman for the TLC said that the companies have yet to submit their best and final offers for the competition, so it’s possible the Karsan design can change before all is said and done.

The winning proposal will be announced in early 2011 and the new vehicle is scheduled to be on the road no later than the fall of 2014.

  • After completeing the survey, go ahead and email and demand that the horn on the new taxi be as loud inside the vehicle (at least the driver compartment) as it is outside the vehicle.

    I got that idea long ago from other streetsbloggers. I’m not kidding. I already suggested it because of the outrageous amount of nighttime taxi noise outside my home. It’s more than a niusance; it’s a real public health menace, so if you agree, please go ahead and suggest it.

  • Having suffered lasting hearing damage from one exposure to a super-loud horn, I second ddartley’s motion.

  • I filled out the survey a few days ago and made the sliding door option my biggest issue to protect all cyclists. Glad streetsblog is on the same page! (now if only I had said something about the damn horns too).

  • flp

    what about fuel efficiency and emssions? i do not find information on such features for each of the models. all i have seen is a general blanket statement that the contestant all can go hybrid or some such, but it was a vague description that did not specify specifics by model.

  • Joe R.

    I’ve long held the opinion that ALL cars should have either sliding or gullwing doors, and this should be mandated by law. The reason isn’t just to avoid dooring cyclists. In parking lots you could put the spaces a little closer together. You also avoid the possibility of hitting the car next to you when opening the door.

  • Joe R.

    Minor correction to previous post-I think gullwing is the incorrect term. Rather, I’m referring to door similar to those on Lamborghini’s which pivot up.

  • PaulCJr

    I also mentioned the issue with the taxi horns. I asked them to make it so that the taxi can’t lay on the horn.

  • Ingar


    Gullwing doors are a major safety hazard in roll overs. Sliding doors? Those I could see working very well for almost all cars.

  • dporpentine

    Woe to the innocent passenger who has to endure horns blowing as loudly inside a cab as out!

    I think it would be great if taxis and livery cars simply had to track the number of horn beeps over the course of a day. Past a certain number on a given day, they have to justify it in writing. In a lot of writing. Way more than any driver or dispatcher wants to deal with. Past a certain number per month or year, and the drivers automatically receive a fine, unless they can successfully demonstrate (somehow) that it was justified.

    Given how horrible New York drivers are to each other (something drivers seem to forget the moment a bike enters their line of sight), there are a good many justified uses for a horn. The goal should be to let drivers do it when necessary and to stop them, by the most practical way possible, from doing it when it’s unnecessary.

  • dporpentine: “there are a good many justified uses for a horn.”
    Well, not legally, as far as most honking that actually happens in NYC:
    “e. No driver shall operate or use a horn or similar signal device
    installed on a licensed vehicle except as a signal of imminent danger.”
    N.Y. ADC. LAW § 19-519 : NY Code – Section 19-519: Anti-noise and air pollution provisions

    I think it was the old NYC Traffic Commissioner Henry Barnes who said that the shortest amount of time known to man was the amount of time between an NYC traffic light turning green and someone waiting at it honking their horn. That behavior is illegal, and has been for a long time.

    As far as passengers’ discomfort, it should motivate the passengers to tell their drivers not to honk so much. But again, I would be okay with the horn sounding only in the driver’s area, if possible.

  • J.J. Hunsecker

    flp – There’s really very little to be concerned about there. All automakers have to make a fleet average of 35mpg by 2016 or pay huge fines to the EPA. Fuel efficiency and obsolete design has created the need for new generation of cabs. That’s partly whythe Crown Victoria and Town Car are going bye-bye soon. Ford’s gas engine Transit gets 25mpg in traffic and will do better than 30mpg with hybrid or diesel drivetrains. Nissan is equal or better. SInce the Turkish design hasn’t been EPA-certified or crash-tested yet – to my knowledge — there’s limited info available. That’s one of the reasons it won’t get the contract, in my opinion.

    As for emissions, the NIssan and Ford are already PZEZ or no ZEZ vehicles. And these days, passenger car pollution from new vehicles really is no longer an issue in major cities. Commercial trucks, on the other hand……

  • bicyclebelle

    While there will be less chance of a cyclist getting doored with the sliding door designs, these taxis appear taller than the existing. If pedestrians and cyclists can’t see each other over them, I think there are going to be more collisions, not less.

  • flp: taxis are about 2% of the NYC vehicle fleet. It’s much more important for them to be good enough so that they can fill in gaps in transit and make it easier for people to live without cars.

  • Oliver

    Pick the Transit! Maybe they’ll finally bring the 5 speed diesel powertrain to this country.

  • Michael Miller

    The city should require a two-volume horn on taxis, tied into the speed of the vehicle, so that the louder horn only sounds above, say, 35 mph. Frankly, that ought to be a requirement for all vehicles.


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