Tuesday, 24 April 2012

AddisonLee: should London be a place where bully-boy 'gangs' get their way on the roads. Or is the AA president right that the roads need to change? Time for the Mayor to come off the fence?

John Griffin, chair of Addison Lee and his 'gang' confront cyclists
and black cab drivers last night. Is this the 'gang' he
wants Londoners to join? Photo courtesy Tom Foot
Is it me or is there something very unpleasant about this image?
One of the statements made by John Griffin, chair of AddisonLee, to cyclists last week was this: "You want to join our gang, get trained and pay up".

Pictured left, John Griffin's 'gang talking to cyclists and the black cab drivers who came to support them at last night's cyclists 'die-in' outside the AddisonLee offices.

I'm not having anything to do with Mr Griffin's 'gang' thank you very much.

And the same goes for a lot of Londoners. Tongue firmly in cheek, it took none other than the Daily Mail to write this about John Griffin's 'gang' yesterday:

"Mr Griffin, which ‘gang’ are you talking about here? The gang of inconsiderate, aggressive commercial drivers who can make using London’s roads such a joyless experience for us all? The nasty, red-faced, overweight and geographically clueless minicabbers shrieking at anyone who dares to get in their way (until they decide they need to double-park, switch their hazard lights on and block the road for everyone else)? Is that the ‘gang’ you have in mind?"

Astonishing words from the Daily Mail, I thought. But there's a lot of truth in them. There's a sense among a lot of road users that Mr Griffin represents something quite nasty on London's roads. As road.cc puts it: "Mr Griffin, who doesn’t seem like someone who shies away from a scrap – if anything, he's more likely to start one." My feeling is that the same thing goes for the way he encourages his drivers to illegally use bus lanes, for the way he intimates that his drivers have more 'rights' to London's roads than other users.

John Griffin is opposed to 'grannies' on bikes
'wobbling to avoid a pothole'
And this is really the crux of the problem. The real question seems to be who is our city for and how should it operate? Should it be a place where people - all people - can get around efficiently and safely? Or should the city be a place where bully-boy tactics supported by 'gangs' get their own way on London's roads?

I think Boris Johnson (or whoever is Mayor from May 4th) needs to set the tone on this. At the moment, Boris Johnson is trying to have it both ways. Last week, his press team slammed AddisonLee's boss for 'irresponsible and unacceptable' comments about cycling. But Boris is also still sticking to the line that London's road are fine for cycling as they are. Last year, for example, he told cyclists that Elephant & Castle roundabouts are fine for cycling 'if you keep your wits about you'. Nicole Cooke, Olympic cycling champion, stated her complete disagreement in an article in The Times in February. And then today, The Times issued the results of its enquiry into the worst places to cycle in the UK which it will present to today's Transport Select Committee. Top of the list? Elephant & Castle roundabout. You can read more about it here.

Even the President of the AA has come out and made the very clear statement that "It would be fair to say from these findings from 10,000 people that in many cyclists’ view the roads are not fit for purpose,” he added. “Many of the things highlighted in the survey show that particularly on major roads in and around urban areas we need a fundamental review of road design and junction layout".

The Times has nailed the issue on the head. In particular, I take my cap off to the President of the AA. He's right. We need a fundamental review of road design. Boris Johnson still seems to be on the fence. Question is, will he support Mr Griffin and his black shirt gang, or will he side with the AA President and others like him?


  1. The last but one paragraph is not complete. John A

  2. OK it is now.

  3. The roads aren't wide enough, full stop. It's hard to see how we'll get round that one.

    However, it's not just road design, it's enforcement. Every day I have to stop across pedestrian crossings, or go round traffic islands on the wrong side of the road, because buses or taxis are sat in a cyclists refuge or far too close to a set of lights. Indicators are another thing that vans in particular refuse to use. I could go on...

    1. The roads aren't wide enough, or that the roads haven't got any wider, but the size of the average car has? Case in point, look at the way the Volkswagen Golf or Polo have bloated over the years.

    2. Obviously road space is a finite resource. This is why it's perplexing why we are dedicating most of it to the mode most inefficient when it comes to using this space. Most of the cars I pass every day carry one occupant. It's about rethinking our strategy - this doesn't mean converting all roads to bicycle tracks, but creating a network anyone can use to cycle safely. At the moment it's all for the cars and bicycles have to find space somewhere between them, which leads to conflicts and misunderstandings (vide the ASL which is the most ridiculous idea tbh) - mixing bicycles which have completely different motion characteristics with cars is like mixing cars with high speed rail.

    3. It's true that a lot of London's roads aren't very wide, but it's not the narrow lanes through the square mile or Soho that are the ones that really need changing - it's the multi-lane racetracks like Marylebone and Euston roads, and motorway-like gyratories like Elephant and Vauxhall. Roads like this are typically 3 or 4 lanes wide in each direction. Are they really not wide enough?

  4. Roads not wide enough? From where I'm sitting I can see Millbank, which not unusually for a main road in London is four lanes wide with a taxi rank down the middle. Hard to see where the space could be found here...

    1. The roads I'm thinking of are suburban single lane carriageways which have already been pushed to two lanes at every junction. All you need are two relatively wide cars stopped side-by-side (yup, good point @Monchberter) and there is nowhere for the cyclist to go other than into the path of oncoming traffic. There's nowhere to put a cycle lane, the pavements are already tiny, hardly wide enough for a parent to push a buggy (which have also got larger over the years).

    2. In which case I would assume you could make these roads one way and use the remaining space for pavements and cycle tracks. At the same time - smaller roads might not really need separate cycle tracks.

  5. The Dutch, you know those people who Penning and Baked made-out haven't a clue about cycling have the same problems as us. The difference is the Dutch decided it could be done as David Hembrow has shown.

  6. Maybe the truth is that the roads aren't wide enough for cars...