16 April 2012
The owner of Addison Lee - a minicab company that operates in central London - has got into hot water with cyclists after a series of belligerent statements about cyclists and bus lanes.
John Griffin of Addison Lee

It started in early April when John Griffin, head of Addison Lee, writing to his 3,500 drivers, suggested they have a right to use London's bus lanes and offered to pay any fines they might consequentially incur. That move - which comes on top of Transport for London's (TfL) decision to formalise motorcycle access to bus lanes - triggered howls of anger from cyclists.

Why are bus lanes so important for cyclists? Most major roads in the capital have no dedicated facilities for cyclists, but most do have bus lanes which cyclists are permitted to use. Taxis already clog up the bus lanes in the centre of the city; adding yet more motor vehicles undermines their value still further.

Griffin's attempt to occupy bus lanes came in the middle of the Mayoral election campaign, testing the administration to see how firmly it would respond. With just a few months to go to the Olympics, when pressure on London's road network will grow ever more intense, Addison Lee is very keen to escape the inevitable chaos and use the (relative) emptiness of the bus lanes.

Enraging the cyclists

It wasn't just the message asking its drivers to break the law that really angered cyclists. In the company's in-house (and in-car) magazine, Griffin launched an extraordinary and ignorant attack on cyclists.

"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."

It is time for us to say to cyclists you want to join our gang, get trained and pay up"

John Griffin, Addison Lee

This rant was systematically picked apart by Simon MacMichael on road.cc [2] while Carlton Reid, the founder of IPayRoadTax.com [3] hounded Griffin on twitter and on the airwaves.

In his column, Griffin appeared not to have understood Rule 213 of the Highway Code which states that drivers need to give cyclists plenty of room for exactly the circumstances he states - "pay particular attention" it says "to any sudden change of direction they may have to make."

Cyclists organised a 'die in' outside the Addison Lee office on the 23 April [4], at which over 250 people showed up. Thousands more signed an e-petition [5] asking for the Government to revoke their licence to operate. Firms and individuals were urged to boycott the company, which many, including the Government [6], did.

Meanwhile Transport for London immediately sought and obtained an injunction against Addison Lee's advice to drivers to use bus lanes, which they have subsequently withdrawn. It is expected that later in the year the company will bring a more formal challenge to TfL's exclusion of the company.

Carlton Reid has also succeeded in persuading Addison Lee [7] to take up cyclist awareness training for their drivers.