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Cab firm boss to cyclists: "You want to join our gang, get trained and pay up"...

John Griffin, head of minicab firm Addison Lee who caused a storm this week and threats of legal action from TfL by telling his drivers to illegally use London's bus lanes has provoked further controversy with his views on the rise in the number of cyclists killed on the capital's roads.

The opinions expressed by Mr Griffin in Add Lib magazine, distributed free to the passengers who each year undertake 10 million journeys in Addison Lee’s fleet of nearly 4,000 vehicles, have already received widespread condemnation on social networks such as Twitter from ordinary cyclists and cycle campaigners alike.

We’ve repeated Mr Griffin’s column in full below. If you’re a cyclist, and particularly one who rides a bike in London, it makes for chilling reading.

Here's what he wrote.

“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’.”

News comment

Reading the content of Mr Griffin’s column, it occurred to us that we could comment upon his apparent belief that roads belong to motorists.

We could take him to task for his apparent victim-blaming of those who lose their lives while quite legally cycling on London’s roads.

We could reflect on the fact that not just Greens but politicians of all hues ride bikes, including a Mayor of London who belongs to a party which Addison Lee supports financially with six-figure donations.

We could remind Mr Griffin that with cycle safety centre stage in the London mayoral elections, his views are woefully out of touch with one of the key political issues in the city his business operates in.

We could point out that experienced cyclists, as well as comparative newcomers, are all too often the victims in fatal incidents in the capital. 

We could elaborate on the fact that there are many things that can be done to improve the safety of cyclists besides their wearing “a padded plastic hat.”

We could underline his apparent belief that ‘Sorry mate, I didn’t see you’ is an acceptable excuse for hitting a cyclist.

We could highlight that in many cities throughout Europe and beyond, bicycles and cars do co-exist on the same roads.

We could correct him on his erroneous use of the term ‘road tax’ or his failure to acknowledge that cyclists and motorists are often one and the same person.

We could go on to say that the majority of adult cyclists hold driving licences, and will therefore have received exactly the same level of ‘extensive training’ as most motorists on the road.

We could correct his use of the word ‘accident,’ which implies chance with no human intervention, when the emergency services and much of the media have switched to using the neutral ‘incident.’ 

We could consider that a motorist’s ‘protected space’ can lead them to forget that they are sitting inside a machine with the capability of easily inflicting death or serious injury on more vulnerable road users.

Or we could highlight the comments found on a variety of forums that London cyclists post on that regularly single out Addison Lee’s self-employed drivers as among the worst on London’s roads.

We won’t do any of that because Mr Griffin does not come across as a man who would be well disposed to engage in reasoned debate about the issues involved and who might be persuaded to come round to a point of view opposed to that he currently holds.

We’re not convinced he’d understand that contrary viewpoint, far less embrace it.

What he does understand, however, is business. He has built a company from a single vehicle into Europe’s largest cab operator. That doesn’t happen by chance.

But while he acknowledges that cycling in London is booming, he misses the point about where much of that growth comes from; it isn’t from ‘grannies’ taking to two wheels for the first time.

Instead, a lot of the rise in cycling is driven by middle-aged professionals such as lawyers, bankers and accountants who in some cases will be the people who decide which cab firm their company uses, or at least help influence that decision.

Currently, for many companies and organisations, that firm will be Addison Lee.

Earlier this week, the company used its Twitter feed to proclaim proudly that its account customers had overwhelmingly backed its unilateral decision to illegally use London’s bus lanes; we wonder whether all of his customers will endorse his views on cycling, and those who have died while riding their bikes, once they learn of them?

We also wonder whether any of them might take their business elsewhere?

It's a safe bet Mr Griffin would understand that.

 

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.

84 comments

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notfastenough [3709 posts] 4 years ago
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Well written, Simon. One gets the feeling that he has somehow recently come to the conclusion that his firm is big enough that he can start throwing his weight around. With any luck, he will be proved wrong.

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northstar [1108 posts] 4 years ago
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Other way round, motor vehicle drivers need to prove to pedestrians, horse riders and cyclists they are good drivers.

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ekynoxe [49 posts] 4 years ago
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Not sure he himself uses the bus lane in his AL car. Would be quite funny to have him surrounded by "a few" cyclists at a red light...

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fiftyacorn [89 posts] 4 years ago
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dont link direct to this idiots company - the guy is out to get publicity, and the more links to his company the better his ranking in the search engines

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TurboJoe [73 posts] 4 years ago
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I fear that Addison Lee will be the death of me if this moron gets his own way.

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downfader [203 posts] 4 years ago
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notfastenough wrote:

Well written, Simon. One gets the feeling that he has somehow recently come to the conclusion that his firm is big enough that he can start throwing his weight around. With any luck, he will be proved wrong.

Exactly.

On twitter the hashtag #boycottaddisonlee is being used. Many bike companies have contracts with AL and they are now in the know thanks to Bikebiz.

It is just not on for a private business to attempt to dictate law and tax, and to hold such dangerous attitudes towards others

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titch75 [14 posts] 4 years ago
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if im right in thinking there is a higherarchy where pedestrians have a right of way over cyclists and cars however cyclists have a right away over cars. a car can wait for a cyclist to turn off or for there to be a safe space to over take. also if he says cyclists are causing more conjestion. imagine how many more cars there would be if all cyclists in london started using cars of there own. there would be much more conjestion and more accidents. cyclists in london do sometimes weave in and out of traffic but they do so at there own risk and if it is not the drivers fault then they have nothing to worry about. however its usually the case that it is the driver at the heart of the accident causing the incident. sorry for waffling. rant over.

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Gkam84 [9089 posts] 4 years ago
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I read up to the end of the quote and nothing below that as i'd like to have my own say on what he said without reading your reply

In part, i think he is right, London is not the place for people to just jump on a bike and go out, so yes, maybe newbie's to the road need to have a little training. The other part of this is Boris bikes and other hires, many foreigners use these to get about without having cycled in London before, this against my better judgement as a cyclist is wrong. Unless they are used in cycle lanes that are not part of the road network, then i think thats also a safety concern. But why should we pay anything when we already pay our taxes?

I was behind their letter to their drivers and them using the bus lanes like any other black cab gets to, but slightly put off their stance on cyclist.

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giff77 [1256 posts] 4 years ago
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That was a brilliant article Simon. Well written.

I find it ironic that AL is having 'issues' with competition in the build up to the Olympics. They are after all a well established company and never 'publicly' took TfL tto task over their being banned from bus lanes in the past. I wonder also if they will demand access to the VIP lanes during the games or will they have 'won' that contract?

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londonplayer [620 posts] 4 years ago
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Anyone else feel this might be a publicity stunt? AL seems to have had an awful lot of media exposure in recent days.

Famous last words BUT I am yet to be cut up or have a serious incident with an AL driver. I have had some very bad run ins with aggressive Black Cab drivers though.

Griffin's comments are provocative but they only confirm what most London drivers think about us. They think we're a bloody nuisance.

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belgravedave [269 posts] 4 years ago
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Nicely written reply Road.cc.

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lee.stuart [1 post] 4 years ago
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In terms of a media stunt AL is very much 'doing a Ryanair' a little bit of controversy will stir up a hornets nest of brand mentions and web links. Even though i cycle regularly i am more often a pedestrian and sadly the type of road user the scares me the most is the 'pro' cyclist - cant see them, cant hear them and they never observe traffic signals if you so much as step a foot out of line their ready for a fight. AL has a point  2

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dave atkinson [6251 posts] 4 years ago
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Perhaps we should change all Addison Lee links in our stories to point to here

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Doctor Fegg [143 posts] 4 years ago
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Anyone here bank with Barclays?

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moonbucket [64 posts] 4 years ago
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An attention seeking idiot by all accounts who, as the article suggests, has become too big for his boots.

Probably thinks he's sending a warning shot across the bows of cyclists in London, now that his taxis are going to be competing for the same space as some cyclists (I think compete is a more apt word to use than "share") as his cabs are now going to, illegally, hurtle along the bus lanes.

Hopefully good old Boris will give one of his cabs a good booting if they try to hustle him off the road....:D

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Tony Farrelly [2869 posts] 4 years ago
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While John Griffin might have being extremely irritating in common with Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary he is obviously no-where near as bright or media savvy.

I'd say Mr Griffin's comments on cyclists could well turn out to be his Gerald Ratner moment - the boardrooms of many of Addison Lee's key account holders must have a fairly sizeable number of MAMILs in them - I wonder what they think of his views?

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notfastenough [3709 posts] 4 years ago
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Seems things may gather a little momentum - Cav has tweeted that he refused to use AL, and the link he references includes a few commenters waking up the Times etc.

https://mobile.twitter.com/MarkCavendish/status/193093098203652096

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Simon_MacMichael [2457 posts] 4 years ago
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Thanks for the comments everyone.

Kaya Burgess who is leading the Cities fit for Cycling campaign at The Times was one of the first people to tweet about it earlier this evening.

I've seen a number of people saying on Twitter they are cancelling corporate accounts with Addison Lee - doesn't seem to be anyone as yet of the stature of a PwC or magic circle law firm, but there is definitely momentum building.

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bobinski [237 posts] 4 years ago
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Simon, that is really excellent. Well done.

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Sudor [188 posts] 4 years ago
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Another case of free marketing via social media - I guess AL has recently hired a PR firm to raise it's profile - I hope it backfires.

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Sudor [188 posts] 4 years ago
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Another case of free marketing via social media - I guess AL has recently hired a PR firm to raise it's profile - I hope it backfires.

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badback [302 posts] 4 years ago
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Nicely written piece.

The bloke deserves everything that's coming to him as he sounds like he's got too big for his boots. He's not that smart as he's not thought who his customer base is and who actually is riding the bikes.

If I lived and worked in London I would not use his company as they do not show the level of due care I would expect from someone driving me around.

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gazzaputt [220 posts] 4 years ago
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I will be urging all I know to discontinue using Addison Lee.

A couple of people I know are very large corporate customers who spend large amounts with them.

I urge everyone to do the same if your in a position to do so.

Also making this article viral it'll be picked up by the mainstream media.

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pmr [198 posts] 4 years ago
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Drivers attitude normally really, really grates me as a cyclist.
But to be honest this blokes comments aren't that offensive to me.
I mean I'd say to any novice cyclist thinking of riding in London - don't do it. Or at the very least get used to riding in traffic somewhere less congested first.
Personally I've ridden 3000 miles over the last 12 months or so, but only recreationally and I simply wouldn't view cycling as a form of commuting into London, I value my life and limbs too much.

Of course this fellas comments are wrong, it is really the cab, bus, lorry and car dirvers in the city that need ADDITIONAL training to cope with the influx of cyclists, but it wouldn't help to have some kind or education in place to help cyclists understand the risks either.

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jacoholico [4 posts] 4 years ago
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Don't know about anyone else, but this makes it clear that I will NEVER book and Addison Lee car.

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Footpather [43 posts] 4 years ago
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Er I am trained and yes I do pay up ie I am insured!

If London is the same as other cities, the Black Cabs (Hackney carriages) pay a premium to be able to pick up people from anywhere and use the bus lanes. Private Hire vehicles do not pay anything like that amount of money so they are not able to have these privileges. (That's how it works here so I assume it is similar nationwide). So why does Mr Griffin think he should have these privileges over any other road-user?

Makes you wonder what other rules and regs he is flouting!

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miuzikboy [59 posts] 4 years ago
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This is one occasion where I'm relishing my ability to decide which cab company my department uses. Ad Lee just lost about £500 per month from us. I'm going to research good (ideally green, well, as green as a car can get) alternatives. I'll post back what I find.

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alotronic [477 posts] 4 years ago
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Well written and perceptive, nice piece.

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Edgeley [377 posts] 4 years ago
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Pmr - cycling in central London is often safer than outside. The roads are wider, vehicles are slower, there are more cyclists around, and on the whole drivers are more alert. I feel more threatened on country roads. Which is not of course to excuse some of the appalling infrastructure in the capital - Kings Cross, for instance.

However, one of the key reasons London is safer is that we have a network of bike lanes (of sorts). These are called bus lanes, and only extra trained drivers are allowed in them, when driving buses or black cabs. Addison Lee drivers aren't extra trained, and in fact they are often appalling. Plus the additional numbers of vehicles in the bus lanes will defeat the point of having them at all.

The Addison Lee MD is attacking cyclists because we are allowed to use the bike lanes, and his cars aren't. He will attack bus drivers next.

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giff77 [1256 posts] 4 years ago
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miuzikboy wrote:

This is one occasion where I'm relishing my ability to decide which cab company my department uses. Ad Lee just lost about £500 per month from us. I'm going to research good (ideally green, well, as green as a car can get) alternatives. I'll post back what I find.

Have a look at Green Tomatoes. They were being recommended on twitter last night

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