Addison Lee chairman scores massive own goal with article likely to increase risk to cyclists

London’s largest private hire firm, Addison Lee, has been in the news for the wrong reasons already this week for urging its 3500 drivers to drive illegally in bus lanes, to the detriment of cyclist safety.

Now, its chairman John Griffin has published a deeply unpleasant and ill-informed column in the firm’s corporate magazine, Add Lib, which appears to say it’s acceptable to run over people on bikes because they’re probably a "beginner cyclists".

There are strong concerns the article will create anti-cyclist sentiment among the firm's drivers, putting lives at risk.

It’s not always clear precisely what Griffin means in his article (it's reproduced below also), because its poorly written as well as containing numerous factual errors, but the tone is clear: my drivers and I are safe in our metal boxes; vulnerable people like cyclists don’t deserve to be on our roads; and if cyclists get hurt it’s their own fault.

Addison Lee already has a very poor reputation among cyclists, with its drivers being frequently accused of inconsiderate or dangerous behaviour on the road.

Now it appears from the article that Griffin is prepared to deliberately infest his whole company with anti-cyclist sentiment, putting the lives of Londoners at greater risk.

It’s hard to see how the government departments and corporate clients that currently use Addison Lee services can continue to do so without appearing to condone the chairman’s complete disregard for cyclist safety.

We strongly urges all cyclists working in companies that use Addison Lee to urge them to only hire private hire car firms that show a reponsible attitude towards cyclist safety.

For the record:

  • The chairman makes no demands or requests on its drivers to act responsibly by giving vulnerable road users adequate space (as required by the Highway Code), and suggests that any cyclist swerving to avoid a pothole or drain must be a beginner and is apparently deserving of being run over, even if it’s a “granny”.
  • It fails to acknowledge that urban congestion is caused by motor vehicles and alleviated by bicycles.
  • It suggests that cyclists currently have no right to be on the road, and won’t be deserving of such a right until they pay for the privilege. Cyclists have an equal right to use road space as any motor vehicle, and contribute to the upkeep of roads through general taxation, like everyone else.
  • It implies the existence of ‘road tax’, which was abolished in the 1930s, replaced by Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) , which is now based on emissions. Bicycles are zero-rated for VED, as are many low-emissions cars. It's incredible that the chairman of a private hire company would fail to understand tax law, unless he's being deliberately misleading.
  • He suggests that riding a bike is characterised by "Green party" politics, even though all the main mayoral candidates have featured cycling prominently in their manifestos, and cyclists are known to come from all a broad spectrum of political and social backgrounds.

As Danny on the Cyclist in the City blog reminds us, it is unspeakably awful for John Griffin to print an article like this in the same week that Debbie Dorling is dealing with the pain of spending her 25th wedding anniversary without her beloved husband, killed last year for no better reason than wanting to ride to work on his bike.

A peaceful protest has been organised by concerned cyclists on Facebook, to take place outside the head office of Addison Lee on Monday 23 April at 6pm.

On 28 April the London Cycling Campaign is organising the UK's largest ever ride in favour of safer streets for cycling – find out more.

John Griffin's article in full

Green party candidates and others are up in arms about what they see as the murder of Cyclists on London Roads.

There has, as we all know, been a tremendous upsurge in cycling and cycling shops. This summer the roads will be thick with bicycles. These cyclists are throwing themselves onto some of the most congested spaces in the world. They leap onto a vehicle which offers them no protection except a padded plastic hat.

Should a motorist fail to observe a granny wobbling to avoid a pothole or a rain drain, then he is guilty of failing to anticipate that this was somebody on her maiden voyage into the abyss. The fact is he just didn’t see her and however cautious, caring or alert he is, the influx of beginner cyclists is going to lead to an overall increase in accidents involving cyclists.

The rest of us occupying this roadspace have had to undergo extensive training. We are sitting inside a protected space with impact bars and air bags and paying extortionate amounts of taxes on our vehicle purchase, parking, servicing, insurance and road tax.

It is time for us to say to cyclists, ‘You want to join our gang, get trained and pay up’.