Up to 1,000 minicab drivers in Manchester yesterday staged a go-slow protest drive from the Etihad Stadium to Manchester Town Hall to deliver a petition protesting against what they allege are discriminatory rules preventing them from stopping in bus lanes to pick up or drop off passengers, while drivers of Hackney carriages – or black cabs – are permitted to do so.
The protest has clear echoes of the ongoing dispute in London between Britain’s biggest private hire operator, Addison Lee, and Transport for London, with a judicial review due under way to decide whether current rules which permit licensed cabs to drive in bus lanes but prevent minicabs for doing so are discriminatory.
Last month, TfL secured a High Court injunction to prevent Addison Lee drivers from seeking to ignore current rules, which they had been instructed to do in a letter sent to them by the firm’s founder and chairman, John Griffin, who had said that the company would indemnify them in respect of any fines and other costs they incurred as a result.
Cycle campaigners in London have campaigned against minicabs being allowed in bus lanes in the city, which are seen as providing a refuge of sorts for cyclists from much of the capital’s traffic.
Quoted on BBC News, Nigel Murphy Manchester City Council’s executive member for the environment, maintained that permitting minicabs to use bus lanes "would affect the reliability of bus services, which huge numbers of people in Manchester depend upon to get access to work, education or healthcare.
"Today's protest will do nothing but cause more congestion in the city, aggravating people who are trying to go about their business."
Speaking on behalf of the Private Hire Association, solicitor James Parry commented: "We now have something like 2,500 taxi drivers in Manchester and 1,500 Hackney carriage drivers.
"Anybody who can't get a Hackney carriage, because they don't happen to have one drive past their door, has to pre-book a vehicle and they are likely to have a private hire vehicle come to their door.
"They charge more because they can't use the bus lanes so they can't for example get to Victoria Station easily or as quickly as a Hackney carriage would.
"That is discriminatory, it is unnecessary and it doesn't serve the city very well in the Private Hire Association's view."
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.