Addison Lee chairman provokes controversy with his views on London cyclist deaths

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

by Simon_MacMichael   April 19, 2012  

London:cyclist in traffic (copyright Simon MacMichael).jpg

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.

 

83 user comments

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Hey everyone, long time cyclist, first time poster.

I live in London, I have a car that I use once a month for visiting family up north and I have a bicycle which I use to get to work every day. While the chap from AL is clearly of a genetic relation to the chap from Ryanair, I agree with the bottom line of the article which is "As more and more cyclists start to use the roads for the first time, they should have some training on the rules of the road."

As a cyclist through London every day, I've lost count of the number of times I've nearly been knocked off my bike. I'm fairly certain that had I not had countless driving lessons (and cycling proficiency lessons) which taught me how junctions work and how to recognise, anticipate and avoid hazards and make correct observations before manoeuvres, then I'd probably have landed in hospital a couple of times, and come off my bike a few more.

Having also driven through London several times, the idiots on the road aren't (usually) actively picking on cyclists, they're just idiots. Spotting a car up ahead that's been waiting to turn right and is getting impatient to the point that they might make a break for it ahead of you is just as important to a cyclist as it is to another driver. Same with learning to look over your shoulder and indicate before changing lanes, which is especially important when avoiding a stopped bus in a bus lane in London.

If you're in a car and you bump another driver at a junction then it's usually superficial damage. If you're a cyclist and the same accident happens then it can be fatal. All the more reason why we should have some training.

posted by lexplex [2 posts]
20th April 2012 - 14:33

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Nice one Simon.

The man's a buffoon! His is a very oddly written article. Loving the laughably hysterical tone ("cyclists are *throwing* themselves...", "they *leap* onto a vehicle...", "Maiden voyage into the abyss"...how old is this bloke?)

He's managed to take an issue that probably deserves some considered airtime (whether novice cyclists are wise to brave the streets of London before they've learned the necessary roadcraft etc) and transform it with his emotive, badly chosen words into something that will only serve to widen the rift between motorists and cyclists - and probably harm his own business in the process.

Then there's his coup de grace: “It is time for us to say to cyclists, ‘You want to join our gang, get trained and pay up’.” Which gang's that then you plum? Ill-informed attention whores R us? No thanks.

Martin Thomas's picture

posted by Martin Thomas [567 posts]
20th April 2012 - 14:34

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This is actually a really good idea.

Perhaps driving lessons should start with the instructor taking the learner out on a bicycle to show them how junctions work etc. and show close-up how other drivers behave. It will give the learner better confidence before first driving a car, and also gives them an appreciation of the other people using the road.

posted by lexplex [2 posts]
20th April 2012 - 14:41

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The company I work for has agreed to no longer use Addison Lee and are switching to Green Tomatoes.

posted by Jan1973 [43 posts]
20th April 2012 - 14:45

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Hey Lex, welcome to the forum. I don't think anyone is objecting to the idea of better training for any/all road users, it's more the rest of his rant and the tone which have riled people.

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3073 posts]
20th April 2012 - 15:02

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Wasn’t there some other older fellow, not too many years ago, that sang a song about “you wanna be in my/our gang”? Wink

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posted by cidermart [460 posts]
20th April 2012 - 15:02

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He's an arse - that's a given. Yet after reading all this, i can't help but be reminded of the ever increasing amount of idiots - on bikes- who cut me up - while i'm on my bicycle (commuting into London as I have been since1993), roll past me when i'm stopped in the correct position at a red light, forcing me to pass there wobbly selves again and again, as then persist in repeating there mistake, reach ridiculous speeds in any built up area ignoring pedestrian crossings, pedestrians and in general - rules of the road, all with only one selfish ignorant thought which is 'me me me', least not the canary brigade who think wearing brightly coloured garments is an excuse to not bother with common sense while on there bikes. Apart from that, he's an arse.

posted by jervais [18 posts]
20th April 2012 - 17:10

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I think there is a big point to be made about training here.. why should road systems be places where the most vulnerable - the pedestrians, horse riders and cyclists - need to learn defensive techniques to accommodate the risks others pose?

Why can we not just engineer those risks out of the equation altogether!? That must surely be a massive solution, and Griffin's advocacy of infringing any safety margin cyclists have is simply wrong.

As I said elsewhere this week - licencing, insuring and taxation of motorists has not stopped an average of 2000+ people (not even cycling related) from dying on our roads.

downfader's picture

posted by downfader [196 posts]
20th April 2012 - 19:05

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I know I'm late to the party. Emailing the customer relations department is all well and good. But they don't sound like the sort of company that will take much notice. The sales line is another matter. sales@addisonlee.com spamming that and stopping sales would soon get someone's attention.

One for the more militant minded maybe.

All the best,

Bruce.

posted by Leicester Bruce. [2 posts]
20th April 2012 - 19:14

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i was quite amused when addison lee popped up in the middle of this vid -> http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00r6nxw

posted by ALIHISGREAT [110 posts]
20th April 2012 - 20:39

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This gentleman should read rule 44 of the Highway Code:

You should never:
drive dangerously
drive without due care and attention
drive without reasonable consideration for other road users

Not to mention observe road signs!

Mike Edwards Llangollen

Mike262's picture

posted by Mike262 [11 posts]
20th April 2012 - 20:55

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God forbid that someone should be seriously injured by an Addison Lee vehicle whilst it is travelling in a bus lane, but if they were would that mean Mr Griffin personally or the company as a whole could be open to criminal charges.

posted by Hangeron [3 posts]
20th April 2012 - 22:46

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I have never been able to understand why cabbies, who after all are just working like the rest of us, are able to use bus lanes to assist them to make money. They must be the biggest group of tax dodgers in the country and we are allowing them to get away with it. I did therefore agree with John Griffin when he felt it was totally unfair for only black cabs to have the privilege of using bus lanes, however he has proved himself to be unworthy of any support for his crass comments, and I sincerely hope his stupid remarks regarding cyclists will have a huge impact on the success of his company. I agree with OldRidgeback that Addison Lee drivers leave a lot to be desired and would like an investigation into how many have a UK licence and how many have actually taken a driving test.

posted by armstrong7 [21 posts]
20th April 2012 - 23:47

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Is this becoming Addison Lee's "Ratner" moment?

--
TedC

posted by TedC [34 posts]
21st April 2012 - 7:10

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Maybe he should go out as a cycle courier for a month? I really think he should do that, because then he would be in a much better position to argue a viewpoint. Might be a good for him.

tommy2p

posted by tommy2p [84 posts]
21st April 2012 - 8:52

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Why are taxis still allowed to use bus lanes? Why are they still allowed to drive around without any passengers wasting finite resources and polluting? Why are taxis still considered to be public transport when they are clearly private same as ordinary road traffic? Why dont we have a system of taxi stands like other large cities and banish taxis to the ordinary traffic lanes? Could it be something to do with money and politics???

ALBANB

posted by albanb [17 posts]
21st April 2012 - 10:00

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Well written peace Simon.

Am no lawyer but was wondering if Mr Griffin has acted in a manor that could be regarded as incitement to commit a crime/illegal act. Further should an incident occur (due to his encouragement of an illegal act) is he then passably liable to prosecution under joint enterprise.

There can be no free speech defense as he committed his business resources to defending drivers who will intentionally commit an illegal act where they would not have done so if he had not made his promise. Therefore he must have intend people to brake the law in support of his business objectives.

THE ONLY WAY IS BIKE

posted by lushmiester [156 posts]
21st April 2012 - 11:09

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Courier company boss is asshole! Shocker!

Not the first one and certainly not the last, in my experience.

posted by Cauld Lubter [117 posts]
21st April 2012 - 14:49

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cidermart wrote:
(I use the term loosely having long seen the skill level of his drivers, Neanderthals is probably nearer)

Unfair to Neanderthals - seriously. The nasty, brutish ones were us.

posted by Cauld Lubter [117 posts]
21st April 2012 - 15:23

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Interview with the Addison Lee boss shortly to be broadcast on Radio 4's PM program

posted by BMC_rider [25 posts]
21st April 2012 - 17:04

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Cauld Lubter I was referring to their ability to control a vehicle, as in just being dragged from the past and dropped into one for the first time without any clue how to drive it. Perhaps I should have directed it towards the missing link, primordial ooze amoebas rather than our granite browed forbearers I apologise for any offence me bad. Wink

cidermart's picture

posted by cidermart [460 posts]
21st April 2012 - 18:46

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Time for the " Politicians " to institute 10 year licences with a variety of grades as in Oz !
New drivers could even be required to re-licence after 2 years but having moved through the grades to " Gold " licence with some privileges attached , most motorists would be reluctant to find themselves downgraded through behaviour that only they control ?

SMIDSY is an unacceptable excuse , since all drivers with eyesight defects are legally required to use appropriate equipment to continue using their driving licence ! Think back to the truck driver who is now responsible for two deaths in less than two years ! Could it be that in the rush to reduce Departmental costs that the ministry involved with “ Road Safety “ cannot be bothered to be more effective on the roads ? Breath Testing , document checking , vehicle emission control , etc , in Random Road Control Exercises could quickly do “ Eye Test “ checks !

Whilst these random exercises will not punish the driver , since these are only control tests , it would be a case of issuing a notice requiring the driver to take an eye sight test within 7 days and produce same at the Police station or other such venue . Of course Drivers licences state the holder should be wearing “ Glasses “ and “ Blind Freddy with his white stick “ should having stopped a driver be able to see if that driver is wearing “ Glasses or contact lenses ,etc “, of course , no Police Officer can tell if they are currently sufficiently effective !

As for the excuse , the sun was in my eyes , would any driver deliberately drive towards a tree knowing that it will damage their vehicle ? So what is the hurry to drive at speed , into an area that you cannot see , in the hope you will remain unscathed ?

“ Licensed to Kill ” is not printed on the “ Driver’s Permit ” in ANY Country , so why do the authorities assume that the V R U is in part , the major part , responsible for their misfortune ?

" MY comment to the IAM report " lost by the internet shuffle !

Time for the " Politicians " to institute 10 year licences with a variety of grades as in Oz !
New drivers could even be required to re-licence after 2 years but having moved through the grades to " Gold " licence with some privileges attached , most motorists would be reluctant to find themselves downgraded through behaviour that only they control ?

SMIDSY is an unacceptable excuse , since all drivers with eyesight defects are legally required to use appropriate equipment to continue using their driving licence ! Think back to the truck driver who is now responsible for two deaths in less than two years ! Could it be that in the rush to reduce Departmental costs that the ministry involved with “ Road Safety “ cannot be bothered to be more effective on the roads ? Breath Testing , document checking , vehicle emission control , etc , in Random Road Control Exercises could quickly do “ Eye Test “ checks !

Whilst these random exercises will not punish the driver , since these are only control tests , it would be a case of issuing a notice requiring the driver to take an eye sight test within 7 days and produce same at the Police station or other such venue . Of course Drivers licences state the holder should be wearing “ Glasses “ and “ Blind Freddy with his white stick “ should having stopped a driver be able to see if that driver is wearing “ Glasses or contact lenses ,etc “, of course , no Police Officer can tell if they are currently sufficiently effective !

As for the excuse , the sun was in my eyes , would any driver deliberately drive towards a tree knowing that it will damage their vehicle ? So what is the hurry to drive at speed , into an area that you cannot see , in the hope you will remain unscathed ?

“ Licensed to Kill ” is not printed on the “ Driver’s Permit ” in ANY Country , so why do the authorities assume that the V R U is in part , the major part , responsible for their misfortune ?

COMMENT TO THIS ARTICLE ! hope it works ! Didn’t make it into the comments either !

"Didn't realise that the " Cameron Administration " could be bought for a mere £100k ? Sounds like the 1% getting their way once again !

Mr-andrew's POV of 14:17 says it all ! Jack of 15:58 is spot on !

Glad i am living in Europe , this week riding at the Giro Del Trentino , where miserable snowy weather would have been intolerable in London !

Comment on “ Addison lee chairman “ article :
good job I am able to save and post from “ Microsoft Works Word “ !

Appears that “ al cabs “ are about to find they are being driven into the ground by a “ would be if he could be “! Time that cyclists became active in letting Vehicle Owners know what their employees are doing to their reputation on a daily basis !
Been cut up recently by a placarded vehicle ? Then let the owner company know about it ! Most large vehicles have “ free phone nos “ to express your POV on the driver !

This time the driver missed you , but will you be so lucky next time ?

Skippy(advocate for "Disabled / Para Sport")@skippydetour. blogging as skippi-cyclist.blogspot & Parrabuddy.blogspot currently on the road with ProTour Grand Tour Events .

skippy's picture

posted by skippy [383 posts]
21st April 2012 - 19:19

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Hurray this time success !!

Skippy(advocate for "Disabled / Para Sport")@skippydetour. blogging as skippi-cyclist.blogspot & Parrabuddy.blogspot currently on the road with ProTour Grand Tour Events .

skippy's picture

posted by skippy [383 posts]
21st April 2012 - 19:20

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Can we have Mr Griffin's email address please?

Andy

posted by jazzdude [59 posts]
21st April 2012 - 20:34

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Being cyclist and a driver, and therefore up in arms about the cost of fuel, £10 a gallon wouldn't be the end of the world for me, but it would for this cretin's empire. (No, I'm not condoning higher fuel prices, but every cloud and all that....)

posted by carl j [23 posts]
21st April 2012 - 22:59

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'The rest of us occupying this roadspace....are paying extortionate amounts of taxes on our vehicle purchase, parking, servicing, insurance and road tax.'

Eh? But cyclists don't use up parking space! They DO pay for servicing (??? - what a weird comment) and often insurance as well. They don't need the same insurance as car drivers anyway. And, as mentioned above, there's no such thing as 'road tax': there is 'excise duty' which you pay to use certain damaging vehicles on publicly funded roads. Bikes are not included in this, they don't pollute or use the same roads or features of roads that motor vehicles do. These comments don't make any sense.

posted by bikeylikey [162 posts]
22nd April 2012 - 18:38

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downfader wrote:
I think there is a big point to be made about training here.. why should road systems be places where the most vulnerable - the pedestrians, horse riders and cyclists - need to learn defensive techniques to accommodate the risks others pose?

Why can we not just engineer those risks out of the equation altogether!? That must surely be a massive solution, and Griffin's advocacy of infringing any safety margin cyclists have is simply wrong.

As I said elsewhere this week - licencing, insuring and taxation of motorists has not stopped an average of 2000+ people (not even cycling related) from dying on our roads.

+1

posted by don_don [149 posts]
23rd April 2012 - 10:38

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carl j wrote:
Being cyclist and a driver, and therefore up in arms about the cost of fuel, £10 a gallon wouldn't be the end of the world for me, but it would for this cretin's empire. (No, I'm not condoning higher fuel prices, but every cloud and all that....)

It won't be long...

posted by don_don [149 posts]
23rd April 2012 - 10:42

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I dont expect I shall add any more to the justifiable outrage over this. It has been my experience as a cyclist and a motorist in London that since the Addison Lee cabs took to the roads London has gained a public enemy. I would also note that incitement to break the law is itself breaking the law - why hasnt Mr Griffin been locked up?

Alg

posted by alg [129 posts]
23rd April 2012 - 11:55

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I've just posted a brand new blog entry looking (tangentially) at this issue and what it can tell us about the complex relationship between cyclists, motorists and money. It's here: http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/general-theory-of-cycl...

posted by InvisibleVisibleMan [19 posts]
25th April 2012 - 1:37

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