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Getting a cab in Beijing becomes a pain

By Bai Xue, Zhang Chen (China Youth Daily)

15:30, May 29, 2012

Edited and translatedy by People's Daily Online

On an afternoon in May, Li Jing and her boyfriend, who just finished his radiation treatment, were standing on a Beijing street and waiting for a taxi; they had just come out of a hospital. In 40 minutes, they saw many empty taxies passing by one by one, but none of them stopped. At last, Li Jing got an unlicensed taxi to send her boyfriend home. After that, she cried secretly.

This 26 year-old girl and her 30 year-old boyfriend with malignant brain tumor said, “It is like being chosen by the fate and I have heard the collapse of my ideal.” When she was pushing the wheelchair anxiously, the stubborn illness of the city was also consuming her energy and enthusiasm.

“People say that when you badly need a taxi but cannot get one in a city, you will easily hate the city.” The girl who once dreamed of living in Beijing very much had used up her energy, and all she could do was to write down her bitter experience on the Internet.

Beijing has 66,000 taxies, but the problem getting a taxi is easily seen on every corner of the city and occurs every day.

There is a series of questions. Why is it so hard to get a taxi? Do the taxi drivers not want to make money? If the hard-working taxi drivers' incomes are only enough for them to live, then where has the profit gone?

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Fred Jansohn at 2012-05-30202.129.80.*
The taxi drivers in this article appeared to have at least three major reasons for refusing to pick up a potential fare: The first is the awkwardness in having to accommodate someone who is ill and in a wheelchair; and/or the fear in, or misplaced prejudice against, driving a pregnant woman through heavy traffic. The second is the fear of being penalized if they stopped in a zone where taxis are prohibited. The third is the commercial disincentive in having to drive someone in slow, heavy traffic where the cost of petrol used exceeded the profit to be made from the fare. Even if we were to say all these conditions are reasonable grounds for refusing to take a fare, what other reasons, or fears, could cab drivers have for refusing clients? I have been in Beijing accompanied by a Chinese tour guide in an area where taxis were apparently permitted to pick up people, and yet many vacant cabs just would not stop when hailed. Eventually you can get a cab; but, other than at the airport where cabbies are positively falling over themselves to give you a ride (or perhaps even “take you for a ride”!), at times it is an almighty and inexplicable challenge hailing a cab in downtown Beijing; and this in a city promoting itself as an international destination or stopover for travelers, not exactly a tourist-friendly experience.

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