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Warning: could be triggering

I can’t find a graphic of it on the net, but I was rather surprised to see Transport for London’s Cabwise campaign has opted for a rather distressing image in its latest poster.

If you’re not in London, Cabwise promotes the use of licensed minicabs and taxis, and warns about the dangers of unlicensed transport. And the latest campaign is illustrated with a picture of a frightened, weeping woman begging her attacker – presumably the driver of an unlicensed cab – to stop, which conflates into a tagline begging the reader to stop taking unlicensed cabs.

Graphic. And shocking. And possibly triggering. And maybe even victim-blaming, though I do think that the reasons why unlicensed cabs are so dangerous need to be promoted. And I think this because I had an interesting discussion with one of my classes the other day, as we looked at a feature in a glossy magazine.

This feature linked in to TfL’s Cabwise campaign, and included first-hand accounts of women who had been attacked in unlicensed cabs. When I asked my students if they ever took unlicensed cabs, they all said they did. Every. Single. One Of Them. These are bright second-year undergraduates, who for reasons of cost or convenience place their safety at risk every weekend. I was shocked. I’ve written about feeling unsafe even in licensed black cabs before, and I really could not believe that these young people weren’t aware of the dangers. We went through the article, pinpointing all the reasons why they shouldn’t take unlicensed cabs, and by the end of the session they all promised that they wouldn’t do it again.

But they may. Who knows? If this shocking new Cabwise campaign reminds some young people to keep safe, I suspect that TfL will argue that it’s been worth it. Much as I agree with the principle behind it, I’m unconvinced.