London's cab drivers are protesting restrictions on 109 miles of the city's roads for the 2012 Olympics, with two in five refusing to pick up passengers during the games, Bloomberg Businessweek reported.
The 23,200 black taxis, a London hallmark, were a featured part of the British city's bid to the International Olympic Committee, but cabbies have since been told that they will face penalties for using the special throughways, known as the Olympic Route Network, according to Bloomberg.
“I’m not working during the games,” said Barry Sandler, a London cab driver, told Bloomberg. “The black cab is an icon of London and we’re not really a part of it.”
Steve McNamara, head of the London Taxi Drivers Association, told BBC News that while London's Olympic Committee had made some concessions about allowing taxis access around the Olympic Park, he remained concerned about the closing of The Mall — a main thoroughfare that leads up to Buckingham Palace — in Central London for three months.
"London's a working city, not a theme park," McNamara, who represents 9,500 cabbies, told the BBC. "It's not like Disneyland where you can close Mickey Mouse Avenue and open Pluto Drive."
“It’s going to be an absolute mess,” Stan Marut, a former secretary of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, told Bloomberg. “Passengers aren’t going to get in my cab if it’s going to take 10 minutes longer and cost another 10 pounds more.”
About 320,000 tourists will flock to London for the Olympics, according to a study by Oxford Economics, an Oxford, England-based researcher. Cab drivers who are striking could miss out on over 2,800 pounds ($4,500) of regular income for the two weeks of the games.
“It’s annoying because we have to take a back seat,” Sandler told Bloomberg. “We’ve been let down. It’s massive. I’ll only see it once in my lifetime.”
However, a London 2012 spokesman said that the city's Olympic committee would continue meetings with taxi organizations to discuss transportation concerns.
"We want to ensure taxis are able to get as close as possible to the venues [bearing in mind the local area traffic management issues and security provisions]," the spokesman told the BBC.