Sunday, 22 April 2012

Boris Johnson condemns AddisonLee 'irresponsible and unacceptable' about recent comments on cycling. Time for Barclays and other major corporate clients to do the same. Cyclists and black cab drivers to stage protest Monday 6pm, Euston.

The car park of one of the largest AddisonLee business account clients in London
One of the first rebuttals that John Griffin, chairman of AddisonLee, made last about the widespread reaction to his vitriolic cyclist-hating comments, was that this was just a twitter storm.

I don't think that's the case any longer. Over 60,000 people read about his irresponsible attitude to safer roads on this blog alone on Friday. Pretty much every single national paper has followed the story over the weekend. The Times took a very clear line: "Minicab chief: cyclists have to expect to be hurt on roads," it thundered. The Telegraph followed suit, saying that "There is only one way to cure this small-minded cyclophobia – get on your bike." The Road Danger Reduction Forum quite rightly dubbed Griffin's comments "a factually inaccurate and victim-blaming rant about cyclists".

Boris Johnson's media team issued a press release on Friday saying:“John Griffin’s actions are irresponsible and unacceptable, and Boris Johnson does not agree with his comments on cycling.” Then early today even the Daily Mail chimed in, calling the remarks by AddisonLee's boss 'dangerous words'.

Meanwhile, users of the AddisonLee iPhone app (used by many Londoners to order the company's minicabs) have started ditching it in favour of alternatives like Hailo, tweetalondontaxi and Green Tomato cars. CarltonReid has written a wonderful summary of the comments people are leaving on the AddisonLee iPhone app. So far, 500+ people have left reviews on the iTunes store about AddisonLee along the lines of: "this company has a dangerous approach to other road users...deleted app, won't ever use again". Or this one: "Used to use AddLee app but since hearing all about this, using this Hailo app...Well, I'm converted, just what London needed".

The company updated its smartphone app over the weekend to try and bury the bad reviews. Clever move. But as Carlton Reid points out, there's only one of them and tens of thousands of customers who are seriously angry. If you haven't done so already, add your review of the AddisonLee app to the itunes store or facebook site. I've already deleted the app so I had to re-load the updated version, review the updated version on iTunes and then press delete.

This is not, as the Guardian called it, a Michael O'Leary moment. The Ryanair boss is good at making eye-catching public statements but his comments always relate to his own product and his service. I've met his marketing director, the guy is funny and smart and cares about his business. I think that John Griffin has over-stepped the line because his comments insult and abuse his customers even when they are having absolutely nothing to do with his company. That's very different to Ryanair.

One comment that really caught my eye, though, was written by Kenneth Tharp OBE, director of the contemporary dance institute The Place in Kings Cross: "After...the callous remarks of the company’s Chair, I’m determined that The Place will cancel our business account with Addison Lee and find an alternative. After all, a dance organisation should know how to vote with its feet."

AddisonLee app gets a roasting on itunes
Courtesy Carlton Reid
I know of two large AddisonLee customers, both of which are looking into the issue and considering whether to ditch the firm. I very much hope that they proceed. I have also heard from two separate (and sufficiently well-connected in these matters) sources that Barclays may be considering the nature of its contract with the firm. And rightly so. Barclays has committed a lot of money to the Barclays cycle hire scheme and - love them or hate them - the cycle super highways. Barclays is funding the cab company to help it expand in the run up to the Olympics and is a major AddisonLee customer. If I were on the Barclays board, I'd be asking some serious questions right now about quite how Mr Griffin was using the money my bank had lent him. Is Barclays lending money to AddisonLee so that he can encourage law breaking and increased danger on our roads? And how does that square itself with Barclays's significantly larger commitment to cycling in London?

My own view is that large AddisonLee account holders should look very seriously at their contracts with this firm. I would not let my own staff use a company that deliberately breaks the law, that encourages danger on our roads and that holds me and my staff in such low regard if we happen to be on bicycles.


Around 500 people have confirmed on Facebook that they will attend a 'die-in' outside AddisonLee's London offices near Euston on Monday 23 April at 6pm. Several black cab drivers have suggested they will join in support of the cyclist action. I think we can safely expect 1,000 people to turn up.

The 'die-in' will meet at the junction of Stanhope Street/William Road then head to their office to deliver a letter to John Griffin of Addison Lee and stage a 'die-in' by lying down outside the office to highlight the real danger his drivers pose to cyclists and pedestrians. It's short notice, but this is an event that's happening now, so acting quickly is important!”

For more details, see Facebook here and for a map of Stanhope Street click here.


  1. Please add you name to the e-petition asking for Addison Lee's license to be removed:

  2. So you think it's moral to download an application you've never used before and have no intention of using just to give it one star?

    Griffin's remarks were reprehensible, but anybody who stoops to telling fibs like this is as bad as he is. This is exactly why we don't trust websites like Trip Advisor, because of all the fake reviews.

    1. I've clarified that point. I already had the app and used it. But because the company removed the app and uploaded a revised version I had to re-load the app (the new version) and re-review that version instead. I've made the point clearer now and no, I don't agree with false reviews. but this is a perfectly genuine response to a company that is seeking to massage its reviews on itunes.

  3. May be worth asking the Traffic Commissioner, with whom Addison Lee has a PSV operators Licence (Addison Lee 2 vehicles; Pullmanor (T/A Redwing) 60+ vehicles) about the good repute of a company that instructs drivers to break traffic laws, and commits to pay the fines.

    Good repute is a condition of holding a PSV or HGV operators licence (one might ask about a few other operators as well)

  4. PS have you a rough idea on how much 'hidden' cycle parking capacity there is in the city. Most impressed by your picture portfolio.

    Some installations could use beter kit though as the storage could be tidier and more densly packed. Perhaps a separate thread. Barclays bike scheme could save a lot of money in city end of trips where bike shuffling vans & trailers clatter around, if the users could hire for the day and store bikes at work, like OV-Fiets.

    1. Dave H

      Since the introduction of the Unitary Development Plan (UDP) in 2002, all new office buildings in the City have been required as a condition of planning consent to provide one cycle space for every 250sqm of office space. The new Local Development Framework (LDF) which is imminently coming into force has doubled that requirement, to one cycle space for every 125sqm of office space. This is an improvement on the original proposal of 1/160sqm, which was based on an assumption that each City office worker gets 16sqm of space (including corridors, meeting rooms, etc) and which I think is now widely accepted is optimistic. In any case, the requirement is based on the assumption that 10% of all city workers will travel to work by bicycle.

      (Meanwhile, by the way, the City tries to discourage developers from providing any car parking spaces, other than disabled car parking. If they do insist on non-disabled spaces, then they must provide disabled spaces in a ratio, and they must provide motorcycle space at the rate of one per 750sqm. That is from the UDP, and I assume the LDF will maintain or tighten this.)

      In its Cycle Parking Strategy document, the City says it is difficult to estimate how many private cycle parking spaces it has in its boundaries but it believes it is in the region of 10,250 business and 275 residential. 8,000 of these arise from planning consents for new office builds between 200 and 2009. It also estimates that it needs to find another 27,000 spaces (including expansion of public on-street provision) and some would say that this is conservative because it underestimates the size of the City workforce at the end of this decade.

      If you are commenting on the pic, that is in fact one of the facilities at my employer, a Big 4 accounting firm. It is quite an old facility and predates the introduction of a planning requirement. It holds about 190 bikes and is close to capacity even in mid-winter. Users get a locker and access to showers plus, if they are willing to pay a tenner a month, a fresh towel every day. We are imminently launching a second facility in an adjacent office building which will accommodate a further 220 or so bikes, with showers etc and a repair facility. The new facility replaces a basement car park for which partners were required to pay about £5k a year, so my bosses deserve some credit for the sacrifice!

      That gives us capacity of about 6-7% of our London workforce, plus we have some shared facilities with other tenants of our landlord, which are hard to count as they are available on a first-come, first-served basis. I have sent the building services manager various links to higher density parking racks, and he is interested but these things don’t move very fast.

      There are some other excellent examples in the City, such as Marsh Insurance Brokers which has spaces for 10% of the occupants of its new building, and one of the Magic Circle law firms ditto. The picture is less rosy for older buildings, as the City has now powers to enforce retrofitting of cycle parking, but office buildings have a relatively short life before being replaced.

  5. You will cyclists should grow up and stop behaving like little spoilt brats. Next time you go and get drank and are unable to ride your bike home, I am sure you will be calling Addison lee to ferry your bike for you. No matter how much you campaign, Addison lee's operating license will never be revoked!

    cyclist with no training who feel it's cool to ride abreast on a Boris Bike, need to get proper training before doing that as they put their own lives and that of others at risk!

    1. Sssssshhhhhhhh....
      Before posting on a thread, please train in grammar and spelling, or else you risk confusing other thread users.

    2. As something like 93% of adult cyclists also hold driver's licences, having studied and sat the road code test, can you please advise what 'training' you suggest? Is there a magical Other Dimension that you need to take account of when on a bike, as opposed to being in a car or on foot? Are there special left/right turn rules that apply to cyclists but not cars? Are bikes allowed to do things cars aren't? Please explain. Otherwise, you look like someone with no clue about that which you are commenting. Mike

    3. Which part of the highway code says that cyclists can't ride two abreast?

      Ah, yes, there it doesn't exist.

    4. and which part of the highway code says you can jump traffic lights?

    5. It's in the same section that allows you to talk on the phone while driving and break speed limits. There are law breakers in every group - this doesn't mean the group as a whole is to blame.

    6. @Anonymous I am asking myself which part of the highway code allows minicabs to jump red lights?

    7. Dear Anonymous -

      Have a look at this footage. Can you comment on the skills of the drivers featured? All the footage takes place over a short cycle through London, and is not in any way unusual.

      -- Anonymous

  6. google review
    Robert ‎ - Mar 30, 2010
    You Can't Really Fault Them Addison Lee's drivers may drive like they own the road and threaten to knock me off my bike at every turn (like black cabbies except they don't own the cabs so they're not fussed if you dent the bonnet) but the service they offer is excellent. There's a coherent voice at the other end of the line 24 hours a day and they can pick you up anywhere in the capitol so you only need one cab number in your phone (which is helpful when you've had a couple)! My biggest reason for the glowing review is that I left my bag in one of their cabs last week and today I got it back. The bag plus it's admittedly non-glam contents would have cost me £400 to replace so I am, understandably, very happy. As the company give you a reference number with every booking the cab, driver and any lost property reported from that combination on that night were instantly traceable. Apart from the near misses when I'm not using them - 'you can't really fault them'!

  7. Michal ‎ - Dec 9, 2011
    As another reviewer wrote, it feels like the negative reviews are a targeted campaign by competitors. Addison Lee offer a very good service, drivers are courteous and self-effacing (don't force conversations on you if you don't feel like it), the booking process online/app is SUPERB and they are always available and super reliable. Big thumbs up.
    Liked: Drivers, Service, Value

    1. This post has nothing whatever to do with the quality of service offered by Addison Lee to its fare-paying passengers. As a regular user through my firm's corporate account, I would dispute the quality to some extent - the drivers usually have no clue where they are going and rely on a satnav which, like all satnavs, can make some rather curious suggestions from time to time, and which seems not to know about road works or closures (which cabbies seem very clued up about). In one notorious incident the driver had keyed in a similar street name which was in the opposite direction from the one I wanted.

      They are also prone to an aggressive driving style, which I put down to the manner in which the drivers are paid (as 'self-employed' lessees of the cars, paid per trip however little or much time it takes to complete).

      And in fact it is this aggressive driving style which is at the heart of the matter. No-one can say that all other drivers, especially cabbies, are all sweetness and light but my own experience from both inside and outside an Adlee car is that they are more agressive and more threatening than, say, cabbies. Their "boss" (sorry, I was forgetting - they are self-employed) has opined firstly that they should be able to use bus lanes, which sadly are the closest that cyclists get to a measure of protection against motor traffic, and secondly that bike riding grannies must be regarded as agents of their own misfortune if they have the temerity to stray into the path of an Adlee driver who, naturally, has no responsibilty for looking where he is going.

      Actually I think the bike comments probably came first, as the print lead time for "Add Lib" must have a been measured in weeks, and the instruction to drivers about bus lanes was only last weekend.