Jenny Jones, the Green Party’s candidate in next year’s London mayoral elections has called for the city’s black cab drivers to be given cycle awareness training similar to that now being provided to bus and lorry drivers.
In a statement released earlier this week, she said: “Both black cabs and cyclists are a big feature of London life and they really must get used to sharing the road. Black cabs have a job to do and can take cyclists by surprise when they have to manoeuvre quickly to pick up a fare.
“Cyclists often need to take up space in the middle of the road & get in the way of faster traffic, in order to do their own manoeuvres safely. We need to increase the funding for cycle training, but we also need to ensure that everyone who drives for a living in London understands how they can help keep cyclists safe.”
The Greater London Assembly Member issued her appeal to the Public Carriage Office, which licenses and oversees London’s taxis, in the wake of a storm over comments made by her in an interview published in the London Evening Standard in which she described how she had twice been forced off the road by taxis while cycling, and had also been the recipient of abuse by drivers when on her bike.
However, she told road.cc that the article had focused on what it saw as an ‘us versus them’ issue, thereby ignoring her main message, which is that cyclists, taxi drivers and those in charge of large vehicles such as HGVs and buses need to develop a greater understanding of each other’s use of the road in order to share it safely and protect bike riders.
The article in the Standard, published on Monday, quoted Steve Mcnamara of the Licensed Taxi Drivers' Association, who said: "This is not the best way to start an election campaign by making such a generalisation about 24,000 licensed taxi drivers. It's like me saying that all cyclists are Lycra-wearing loons based on one or two bad experiences."
But Ms Jones, formerly Deputy Mayor to Ken Livingstone, insists that she is not making a generalisation about taxi drivers, whom she acknowledges have a difficult job, having to process a huge amount of information as well as dealing with the stress of spending the working day in London traffic.
She also told road.cc that she believes they are a “great tourist attraction and very efficient form of transport – assuming you can afford them!”
However, just as there are some cyclists who jump red lights or ride on the pavement – both issues that Ms Jones is determined to tackle, as well as the problem of people riding at speed along the Regent’s canal towpath – she believes that the attitudes of a minority of taxi drivers detract from the behaviour of the majority of them.
Ms Jones is currently seeking to establish a dialogue with representatives of taxi drivers – she is yet to hear back from the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association after she decided to take up an offer made by Mr Mcnamara on the radio on Tuesday for him to show her first-hand the problems taxi drivers believe they face with cyclists.
And while she has been invited by the RMT union to discuss with them the issues cyclists face in sharing the road with black cabs, she is waiting for a date to be set by them for her to visit.
In the meantime, she maintains that her principal concern is wanting “cycling in London to feel safer, and you need all professional drivers on your side to make that work.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.