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."
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.