"Grow Your Own Brain" science
confirms what many London cab drivers already suspected -
that portions of the drivers' brains are actually larger than
that of the average person. The exhaustive training required
to obtain a taxi license makes London's classic black cab
drivers unique in the world. To build this mental map of London's
roundabouts and one-way streets, hopeful cab drivers must
participate in a venerable institution called "The Knowledge."
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of the Knowledge
Prospective London cabbies have been struggling with The Knowledge
since 1851. That's the year the Public Carriage Office (PCO),
a branch of the Metropolitan Police Department, first established
the standards for horse-drawn hackney carriages. The Knowledge
then, as now, encompassed the 1,242 square miles within a
six-mile radius of Charing Cross, the center of the city of
London. The last horse-drawn carriage was licensed in 1947.
Today, there are some 23,000 black cabs on the road.
cabbies learn The Knowledge on bikes in 1947
the roughly 25,000 streets and 1,400 landmarks of London can
be a full time job and take two to four years. Students of
The Knowledge, self-proclaimed "Knowledge Boys," must first
master the 400 routes in the PCO's infamous Blue Book. Then,
the Knowledge Boys (and some Knowledge Girls) must pass a
series of written and oral tests, by which they prove they
can always find the shortest and therefore cheapest routes
between any two London landmarks. George Harper, a 27-year-old
Londoner who has studied The Knowledge for two years says
the best and most common way to study is on a bike or moped.
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