Time to boycott Addison Lee

John Griffin the Tory donating boss of Addison Lee (presumably a distant relation of Nick?)  is clearly on the crazy end of the motoring lobby spectrum. His comments in hisfirm’s house magazine border on incitement to kill cyclists. I reproduce them in full here:

“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’.
 It is, to be frank, barely worth commenting on this.He is under the total misapprehension that fuel and excise taxes are hypothecated to road spending, which is politically illiterate from someone who is a large political donor and who apparently has met transport ministers to put forward his thoughts about minicabs using cycle lanes. I’ve always rather liked Addison Lee as their drivers – when I have used them for media interviews – have been good, but clearly Griffin is an irresponsible boss who is inciting his drivers to disobey the law on bus lanes and pay little heed to cyclists.
 All mayoral candidates must come out strongly against this nonsense and organisations such as the BBC, Sky and other major users of Addison Lee should swiftly end their contracts. Hit Griffin where it hurts!



  • I think that is a little unfair. I’m a great fan of increased cycling, but the Green lobby is rather rabid about treating motorised road users as if they are the entire problem, when it is a combination of issues.  One of them is inexperience and the inattention of some cyclists, another is the lack of courtesy of some motorists.  However, a big issue that should unite the lot is the substandard maintenance of the roads.  

    Yes motoring taxes are not hypothecated, but it is far from ridiculous to assert that without people owning vehicles or driving them, motoring tax revenue would drop – they are proxies for road pricing, indeed the vehicle excise duty tables in part reflect factors around weight to offset the poor way that diesel taxation reflects the marginal costs that heavier vehicles impose on the network.   If road maintenance was done on ALL roads (not just the motorways) on a comprehensive asset management basis with optimised capital replenishment of the network, then potholes would be abolished – it’s utterly outrageous that so much profit is effectively generated from taxes on road use, and the network is allowed to crumble in so many places.

    There is a perfectly reasonable debate about what to do about roads in London, particularly given the complete dearth of dedicated through routes segregated from cyclists, pedestrians and built up areas, because of history.  It will need pricing, it will need investment in redesigning networks (including lane allocation, signage, intersections) it will need ITS systems and will need new construction (tunnelling) to take through traffic out of densely populated areas.  The debate in the past decades has switched from brutalist construction projects to do nothing, to ignore it, to price it, to tinker with utility access, to pray demand management can be done primarily through denial of capacity.  It’s time for it to be a bit more intelligent, and neither the Greens (who have a quasi-religious attitude to transport modes) nor the minicab industry are anywhere close to doing that

  • davidphil

    Surely Mr Griffin in talking commonsense here? Anyone who has driven on London’s overcrowded roads has had near misses with cyclists. Many have taken up the bike after 20 years out of the saddle and believe gthey have the same control and awareness as they had when they were 18! They are also often late for work and take risks, weaving in and out of traffic, totally ignoring traffic lights and ped crossings. Let’s encourage them all to be properly trained.

  • Sean Howes

     Unlike motorist who as we know always follow all the rules, never jumping red lights etc.

  • BigManLittleHair

    Surely Mr davidphil is talking nonsense here? Anyone who has cycled on London’s overcrowded roads has had near misses with drivers of vehicles. Many passed their tests over 40 years ago, or aren’t wearing their prescription glasses or aren’t even licenced. They often take risks, waving between lanes, exceeding the speed limit, ignoring siganls and pedestrian crossings. Let’s encourage them to under go training to update their skills…


  • tlonuqbar

    As a cyclist and user of all public transport including minicabs I find both Mr. Griffin’s remarks and Mr. Wolmar’s intemperate reaction depressing.  Both should calm down.  Cyclists and public transport providers need to share *very* limited roadspace.  Licensed minicabs should be allowed in Bus Lanes, limiting these to Hackney Cabs is discriminatory.  Hackney cabs do not even serve much of London, as those who live outside the centre of town are aware.  Cyclists should support a transition towards car clubs, minicabs and away from private driving.  These lobbies should support one another, and force TfL and the Transport department to adopt more enlightened thinking about how road use will need to change in the next thirty years if we are not to choke to death. 

  • Guest

    “If road maintenance was done on ALL roads (not just the motorways) on a
    comprehensive asset management basis with optimised capital
    replenishment of the network, then potholes would be abolished”
    Yeah, because currently councils have absolutely no strategy to fix potholes whatsoever. I bet none of them have even heard of asset management.

    “it’s utterly outrageous that so much profit is effectively generated
    from taxes on road use, and the network is allowed to crumble in so many
    Do you actually have any numbers to back this up or have you just made it up? I’m fairly sure road tax etc. doesn’t cover spending on roads, particularly if you take into account negative externalities.

  • Paul Holt

    CW is being inconsistent: “…barely worth commenting on…” and yet he does so, then tries to rabble-rouse.

    What should CW do instead?   How about his vision for an integrated transport policy with the aim of making life better.   Start with that.

  • I hope somebody compiles a list of advertisers in the Add Lib magazine and AdBins so we can boycott them too.

    Re. cyclist training:
    I’ve seen fellow cyclists put themselves in danger (it’s not difficult) by making bad decisions. Even if they are endangered by a motorist’s poor driving it’s still the cyclist who gets killed. I agree that training should be made available, preferably free or at least subsidised. I would encourage anybody thinking of taking up cycling to accept any training available.

  • Dan

    The more non-bus, 4 wheeled traffic there is in bus lanes, the less use the bus lanes will be to those who need them  – ie bus passengers and cyclists.  I would have no problem with taxis not being allowed into bus lanes.  I have a very big problem with minicabs being allowed in.

    I also have a problem with a company which wants its people to break the law and which encourages bad driving becasue it is only cyclists who might get hurt.

  • RapidAssistant

    Clearly he has gone and “done a Ratner” with this ill-thought out response.  Saying no more.

  • Any pedestrian who has tried to cross the road has had near misses with drivers of vehicles.

    There’s some strange myth that only cyclists break traffic rules.  As someone who was once almost mown down by a motorcyclist going the wrong way down a one way street, and frequently has to watch for car drivers zooming through red lights, I beg to disagree.

  • Francis Cook

    So in essence we now have more people on more modes of transport who all break the rules… ? There is a good point in saying that there needs to be a general raising of standards in the ability to drive, and also a much less blinkered attitude to the fallacy that more things can share the same space. 

  • Seemingly a cogent argument, and certainly one extremely well put. Shame it’s not terribly accurate. Tons of info on ipayroadtax.com (ironically named, BTW).

    http://ipayroadtax.com/itv-ignorance-about-road-tax/why-isnt-beer-tax-used-to-build-better-pubs/ and many more, including the history of the ‘road fund’: http://ipayroadtax.com/no-such-thing-as-road-tax/bring-back-the-road-fund/

  • Negative externalities are covered here: http://ipayroadtax.com/uncategorized/cyclists-are-hit-with-sticks-when-they-should-be-fed-with-carrots/

  • Griffin makes just one valid point, training.  As a kid in Birmingham age 11, I did my cycling proficieny training and test to get my pennant and badge.  It involved a 4 MILE road test, half on the A435, the Birmingham to Alcester Road, (now te Redditch Road) and back via side roads from a tested right turn at Moseley Village – now a banned turn. 
    It taught me roadcraft and road positioning, which I have never forgotten as a Car Driver.
    This rather ignorant man needs to get his facts right, but at the same time the vocal cycling lobby must promote proficiency tests, roadcraft and safe cycling, then his silly comments will be proven to be a pointless diatribe based on ignorance and intolerance.
    But PLEASE cyclists, and I am occasionally one, LIGHTS after dark and stop JUMPING RED LIGHTS!
    Keep safe!

  • p.megson

    Liberty has caught on that “road taxes” are not hypocated to roads, but has she caught on that many cars do not pay road tax any more than cycle do?  In fact there are 109 models of car from all major manufacturers which enjoy the nil rate band of vehicle excise duty, which Liberty will know is based on CO2 emissions.

    Is Liberty aware that, hypothecation aside, it is not actually true that motoring taxes exceed costs of roads?  You cannot look at rads purely interms of building or maintaining them.  They also have to be policed.  An ambulance service and fire service has to attend to incidents on roads.  Hospitals have to patch up road accident victims, and treat others with conditions like asthma and other breathing problems caused by traffic pollution – motor exhuats having replaced factories as the major source of air pollution today.  Social security has to pay disablity benefits to road accident victims etc who have suffered long-term disablity due to road accidents.  The nation loses productivity and future tax revenues when a working-age road accident victim dies or is permanently unable to work.

    For all those reasons motor traffic needs to be tamed, so that active travel or collective transport can play a larger role.  All politicians of all parties know this, in their heads.  They are just afraid to say so in case the lobbyists for the motor industry jump down their throats.  Griffin is the motor industry’s “useful idiot”.

  • ScaredAmoeba

    Red Lights
    New research from Direct Line car insurance reveals that motorists are driving through 12 million red lights each month on British roads – the equivalent of running 278 red lights every minute *.

    Over 5.2 million (14 per cent) motorists admit that they drive through an average of two red traffic lights each month. Over 760,000 (two per cent) motorists habitually drive through red lights if they feel the road is clear and there is no traffic.

    As a result of their reckless behaviour at red lights, drivers risk clocking up over 36 million penalty points (three for each offence) and fines from fixed penalty notices totalling £721** million every month.

    A worryingly high number of motorists, dubbed ‘amber gamblers’, are putting their lives and other road-users at risk by failing to slow down for traffic lights about to turn red. Almost one in ten (nine per cent) motorists don’t reduce their speed when approaching amber lights, with four per cent admitting to putting the accelerator to the floor to race through the lights.

    Over 1.5 million (four per cent) motorists admit to getting ‘a thrill’ when driving through amber
    traffic lights that they know will have turned red before they have passed through the crossing or junction. Over 500,000 drivers risk being ‘rear ended’ as they stamp on their brakes as an automatic response whenever they see amber traffic lights.

  • ScaredAmoeba

    The average free flow speed of cars in
    2010 ….on roads with a 30 mph limit it was 30 mph. [In light of
    congestion, junctions and traffic lights etc., this achievement is
    impossible without endemic and substantial speeding]

    ….83 per cent of [HGVs] exceeded the
    50 mph speed limit on dual carriageway non-built-up roads and 69 per
    cent exceeded the 40 mph limit on single carriageway non-built-up
    roads. Eighteen per cent exceeded the speed limit by 10 mph or more
    on single carriageway roads.

    Transport Statistics Great Britain: 2011



  • ScaredAmoeba

    You have got everything backwards, Like Mr Griffin. It is motorists who have a lot to teach cyclists about jumping red lights and of course speeding, which motorists do and cyclists cannot do one from a technicality and the other due to the Laws of Physics.
    I haven’t dug out pedestrian crossings figures yet. But Motorists seem to think those coloured patches of asphalt infront of the stop line featuring a painted outline of a bicycle are there for cars, lorries, motorcycles and taxis. FYI, ASLs are for cyclists only.

    See my posts in response to Sean Howes.

  •  @libertyscott:disqus  “it’s utterly outrageous that so much profit is effectively generated from taxes on road use”

    The amount of government revenue generated from road users is nothing more than a function of the number of people registering vehicles, buying fuel, spares etc.

    Taken to the ultimate conclusion, if everyone stopped using motor vehicles, and did not renew the VED, the government’s income from that source would be zero.

    Apart from recent manipulation for political reasons, the rates of increase in motoring taxes have been in line with inflation.

    It’s also interesting that the objectors take no account of the historical costs of building the road network before there were sufficient car and lorry users to pay for them.

  • Fandroid

    John Griffin infers that it is only the inexperienced cyclists that get killed or injured. Some real statistics would help a lot. Full Fact has a serious go at unravelling the statistics http://fullfact.org/ . Their conclusions are that cycling safety has marginally worsened since 2008, but, of course, the info isn’t there on how many ‘grannies’ have taken up cycling or have got injured. If John Griffin observed the simple rules concerning driving near cyclists, then he would have no trouble in not killing or injuring them because he would have given them enough space anyway. It’s called ‘defensive driving’ and every driver should go on a course at least once in every 5 years. Me included !

  • notyetdeadcyclinst

    It is sad that someone of such limited intellect as John Griffin is afforded the air needed to keep his repelant form alive.  If he was capable of actual thought rather than the rabid ranting of a stunted brain he would be able to realise that the responsibility of driving a tonne or two of lethal metal includes not crashing into things.  The simple method of allowing a resonable distance when passing, seeing cyclists is greatly facilitated by the transparent nature of the windscreen, will prevent turning someone’s wife, husband, son or daughter into raspberry jam. 

    Hopefully his hateful attitude in life will maintain his stress levels high enough to ensure an early demise. 

  • EricD

    “He is under the total misapprehension that fuel and excise taxes are hypothecated to road spending, which is politically illiterate from someone who is a large political donor and who apparently has met transport ministers …”

    That reminds me of

  • Paul Holt

    To help CW: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/greenpolitics/planning/9216732/New-town-same-old-story-why-do-we-concrete-over-the-human-spirit.html.   In particular the “…the train station was so far from my house that I had to drive to it, which sort of defeated the purpose…” remark.   Quite!

  • AndyKewell

    Don’t expect anything from the BBC. The BBC is institutionally ignorant of how roads are financed, the rights of all to use roads, what Vehicle Excise Duty is, and the non-existence of ‘road tax’. This is clearly demonstrated in their reporting every day, for example here: http://youtu.be/qGKavuuespY Where the anchor asks ‘You don’t pay any road tax, how do you justify using the highway?’

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  • Back in 2011 the Mirror checked out the ‘self-employed’ drivers who rent their minicabs from Addison Lee, and are required to take the work from Addison Lee to earn the money to pay for the cabs.  Unlike the Hackney Cab with a taximeter clocking up the cost in time and distance travelled, the minicab driver is paid per job, and thus the more jobs you do the more likely it is that you will earn enough to pay for the fuel (A-L don’t pay for the fuel as it would technically make them the employer) and pay for the cab rental and earn a basic wage. 

    We’ve already had the battle on the mass killer vehicles – construction industry HGV’s where a site clearance, or materials delivery job would pay per trip, or load, often with a pressure to keep excavators fed with an empty truck to load, whilst using the minimum number of trucks, and doing the job in the shortest time, pressured by cutting margins to win the contract.  Vocational drivers have regulation on the hours worked, (although ‘local rules’ could punch a hole in that one) but no hours restrictions on minicab and van drivers, so one can see why the Addison Lee vehicles have gained a reputation in the London cycling community as ones to watch and keep well clear of.  There is a Police driving term – ‘driving to make progress’, to which the rider is added ‘within the limits of the law’.  For some drivers the second part seems to have been forgotten.  Still we hear that ‘The Stig’ from Top Gear has been engaged to work on A-L driver training.  That speaks volumes.  A compilation of helmet camera recorded incidents and A-L drivers texting/using mobile phones has been collated, and makes interesting viewing.  

    Then we have the call for drivers to break the law and the CEO’s commitment to pay their fines.  I’m not sure how TfL view ‘good repute’ in assessing the fitness to hold a PHC Operator’s Licence, but Addison Lee also holds a PSV ‘O’ Licence – directly for 2 vehicles and through Pullmanor T/A Redwing for over 60 coaches, and so The Traffic Commissioner might also wish to ask whether good repute (a requirement for holding an operators licence) embraces instructing drivers to break the law and paying the fines, both for using bus lanes, and blocking on double red lines and taxi ranks.   

    By the way Christian – how did the protest go this evening?

  • My jaw dropped when I listened to their supposedly well researched consumer programme You & Yours a week or so ago when throughout the programme the presenters used the term ‘road tax’ to refer to VED.  I’ve done a rough calculation based on the percentage of my Council Tax that I’m advised is spent on Roads & Transport, and a rough guess on the amount from my Income Tax that goes to pay for Roads.  There would presumably be an element of the 20% VAT I’m paying which could also be my payment for roads – so I could do a basic calculation on the credit card annual spending total.  That would give me an idea of how much I’m paying for the roads.  Even in rough terms it looks to be over £1000/year, and I’ve not kept a car on the road full time since 1976.

  • Albert Beale

    I don’t know whether Christian was at the event last night – I didn’t spot him. But a couple of hundred of us were.

    Quite a lot of us think there needs to be a more active response to the direct and indirect violence meeted out on society as a whole by the unnecessary level of use of motor vehicles in places like London. Justifiable non-violent self-defence, I’d call it. Anyone else interested in this approach might like to look at http://bikesalive.worldpress.com, or contact bikesalive@london.com.

    Albert Beale

  • Albert Beale

    Forgive my typo!

    That should of course have been http://bikesalive.wordpress.com – I was sure that was what I typed!! Apologies.

    Albert Beale

  • Paul Holt

    Unfortunately, changing the name doesn’t change the amount.   Road tax or VED, it’s just another tax that disappears annually from our pockets.   Arguing over the name doesn’t help.

    Politicians and taxes are rather like water companies and rain.   They always want more!   A target CW keeps missing is for politicians to stop squandering our taxes and for water companies to repair leaking pipes.

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  • Percy

    I fear your fighting a loosing battle on this one. Here’s what newspaper commentators in Englands supposedly Green & Pleasant Eco Friendly Lake District  are saying. Basically get off your bike and into your car if you want to see the Lakes !!! Remember this isn’t a small few column inches, from a reader, its an opinion from one of the papers paid writers and is afforded a 4 x 6 inch column with writers  picture in the printed edition.

    Readers of this blog can read and commnet to the online version at the link below. The more the merrier.


  • Michael D. Willis

    Imported from Detroit:

    Mad Car Disease!