Sunday 22 April 2012

Addison Lee Boss : Breaking the law and running over grannies is OK

OK, so he didn't actually say this - but seeing as he is defending his editorial in his Addison Lee magazine by saying he may have used some poetic license, I thought I would as well.

I should imagine most people now know that John Griffin has urged his drivers to use London bus lanes and he will pay the fines whilst AL and TfL slug it out in the court on Monday. Then, he wrote an editorial in the AL magazine which seemed to imply cyclists (especially novice ones) have only themselves to blame if they are run over. And then capped it all by dropping in the classic "cyclists don't pay road tax" canard to end.

I am not going to analyse what he said in the editorial, since other sites have covered this far better than I could.  I do wonder about the logical reasoning of a man who, in one breath, can encourage his drivers to break the law, whilst on the other berate cyclists for using ipods. Considering the collection of youtube videos showing Addison Lee drivers texting, on the phone, and generally throwing themselves around the road, one might think he would be better worrying about this than the actions of cyclists.

Now, in The Times he seems to be trying to "clarify" his comments by saying that he is simply concerned for cyclists and thinks that we need more training. He says "If my article causes a debate around whether cyclists need training and holding to the same standards as other road users, bring it on". If  by "standards [of] other road-users" he means some of his mini-cab drivers' then, judging by the videos linked above, he has set the bar really rather low.

One can deconstruct his comments and subsequent backtracking  sorry - "clarifications" until the internet runs out of storage space, but the really interesting thing is why he thought printing these types of comments, and openly asking his drivers to flout the law by using bus lanes would actually pose no issues. Those of a more cynical nature may wonder whether he believed the significant cash donated to the party of current government bought him a certain indemnity. Others may wonder whether he realised that he won out over the M4 bus lane by flouting the law and then managing to get the fines cancelled, and thought he could do the same here. Certainly I doubt he expected this type of reaction to either statement. The story has now run in nearly all national papers, has spawned a protest group and been aired on radio. It has even brought black cab drivers and cyclists together in unity against Addison Lee - a truly spectacular achievement.

But much more than this, his comments and actions have irritated people who cycle in London. People who work for companies that use his services. People who may be in a position of authority to review or influence these contracts. Already there are posts from managers saying they have cancelled their use of Addison Lee, and rumours of bigger cancellations.

And this is what is really amazing. That John Griffin - a man savvy enough to build a large business - doesn't actually understand that cyclists aren't some odd-ball phenomena designed to fling themselves under his taxis. They aren't some militant out-group that are hellbent on destroying capitalism. They are simply people getting to work, going home, doing some shopping, meeting friends, going out.

They are, in short, his customers.

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