Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Are Addison Lee on a Downward Cycle?

Addison Lee were the rising stars of the London Minicab market, the largest in town. They have thousands of cars on the road, and they brand most of them, so they are visible.

It all kicked off a few days ago when their outspoken chairman decided that he could change the law, and told his drivers to drive in bus lanes and he would pay any fines (read more here http://www.bikebiz.com/news/read/new-threat-to-london-cyclists-as-minicabs-told-to-invade-bus-lanes/012893 or many other places). The subtext to this is that he wants to make as much money as he can during the Olympics, and probably thought he could get away with it. However, he misjudged and found himself at the center of a backlash: A direct instruction from TfL not to contravene the law, and opened up the potential for TfL to revoke his license to operate. After all, someone who publicly advocates the breaking of the law can't be a fit person to run a company of this size and standing. In a rare moment, cyclists and cabbies found themselves with common ground to oppose this move.

It then transpired that he had also written an article in his in house magazine, read by customers and people in his cabs which effectively said "It's the cyclists own fault if they have an accident, don't blame yourself if you run into one, it is inevitable" Loads of other crap too (http://cyclelondoncity.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/if-addisonlee-wasnt-worrying-you-before.html for more).

As a result there was a "Die In" organised in front of Addison Lee's offices, which I went along to. A wonderfully diverse range of cyclist numbering about 300 turned up despite the poor weather and "died" in front of him. To be fair to John Griffin he did face the crowd - and then mostly spouted the same old crap. His valid point is that training would be good for all cyclists. That is wrapped up in a wrapper of so many misconceptions and ill conceived notions that it is barely discernible. Plus, while he is welcome to an opinion on this or any other matter the only thing he has CONTROL over to any extent is the behaviour of his drivers. He could doubtless make a real contribution to cycle safety if he trained his drivers to behave better and then put measures in place to make sure they did.

So where do I stand on the whole issue? Actually, I can't get as wound up as many do. John Griffin is just another ignorant motorist who fails to understand the value of the cycle on London streets: if more people used cars (as he seems to advocate London would grind to a halt. He does happen to be in charge of a substantial cab operation, though, and as such it is entirely inappropriate for him to voice these inflammatory views where they can influence the attitudes of those drivers negatively and potentially result in injury or even death. Addison Lee in my view are no worse than any other mini cab drivers, probably better than the majority of outer London ones, but they do have the misfortune of having the brand emblazoned on their cars. If John Griffin wants to build the value of his brand, then he needs to grasp the nettle of that branding and make sure his drivers are better than others - ambassadors for his company. You don't do that by breaking the law or barging cyclists off the road.

I can't see their license being revoked, and given the distress it would cause to thousands of the drivers who have done little more wrong than any other and the undoubted need for the service I am not certain that it would be valuable, however appealing the image of the schadenfreude is.

I'll share the road with anyone, I have as much right to it as any car. All I ask is that drivers do their bit and try to avoid me.

This photo courtesy of David Firn, set here I'm not in any, other photos in which I also appear here, I'm easy to recognise as I am the only one is short sleeves and shorts.