Friday, 20 April 2012

Were Jon Griffin's (Addison lee) comments Wrong?

There are a number of aspects to this whole battle that has kicked off between the Chairman of Addison Lee Taxi's, Jon Griffin and the whole of the cycling world in the UK.

1 - It is obvious that despite owning a multimillion pound business he is not the brightest as regards public relations

2- The cycling world is very easy angered and able to very quickly mobilise a huge internet and political campaign.

3 - It’s amazing how economically and politically powerful the cycling Jungle is. There are more big players on their bikes these days than we thought. It’s not just Sir Alan Sugar.

4 - Finally, if you remove the arrogance and his attitude to road awareness and the law for his drivers are his comments actually that far off the mark?

You can make up you own mind reading his comments courtesy of the Guardian

Jon Griffins Original Comments:

This summer the roads will be thick with bicycles," Griffin wrote. "These cyclists are throwing themselves on to some of the most congested spaces in the world. They leap on to 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 road space 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."

He concluded: "It is time for us to say to cyclists, 'You want to join our gang, get trained and pay up'."

After the row Mr Griffin followed up with the following:

I argue for compulsory training and insurance for London's bicycle owners and I still stand by my contention.

"About one cyclist is killed on London's roads every month and countless others horribly injured. If the article causes a debate around cycle safety, and perhaps saves some lives, bring it on.

"Cycling is a deadly serious issue and lives are at stake. There have been huge campaigns recently to encourage cycling, but not so much in terms of improving safety and awareness for cyclists.

"I'm glad that the issue is being debated. If anyone has more ideas for improving safety for cyclists, I would be delighted to hear them. In the meantime, I will continue calling for compulsory training and compulsory insurance for bicycle users."

Let’s look at the objectively for a moment. Take out the fact Mr Griffin is Taxi Company Chairman and has probably disliked bikes from the moment he started driving out of the equation for a moment. Also ignore his highly inaccurate statistics about cycling accidents and consider the following:

1) Does he not have a point that anyone, without formal training on cycling safely and the laws of the road can cycle anywhere and anyhow. The challenge is that the perceived damage a cyclist can cause on his own or to others in minimal. That's the perception but cyclists have killed pedestrians and only last year a civil case was brought against a cycling courier. We may not be as deadly but we can cause accidents and we can kill!

The reduced risk of damage unlike like motor vehicles should not mean we should not know and abide by the laws of the road. I think some form of cycle training should be encouraged if not enforced to ensure all road users are able and capable individuals.

Mrs Griffin made the mistake here though by blaming cyclists. The large majority of adults cyclists are far safer that the majority of cab drivers and white van drivers on our roads. I'll admit though this is as a result of personal experience and not statistical data. It’s true however to say cars cause more deaths every year than bikes.

2) Was he really wrong to state we should all be ensured? Definitely not, it should be compulsory to be insured for a cyclist to be on the road. Insurance is a standard part of modern day life and is required for driving, holidays, a number of jobs, companies hold public liability insurance to be able to practice in many fields. It protects the rider as well as provides the support and funds in the event an accident is proven to be the cyclists fault. Any cyclist riding any serious miles should not step outside without insurance. If you do you are mad! Making this compulsory should be a serious consideration in the conversations going forward.

3) He did go a tad too far asking cyclists to contribute to the "Road Tax". If he had taken time to think about it, the tax is based on emissions and hence the reason a 2.0l BMW can get away with paying £35? A bike unless powered by a diesel engine is unlikely to register a request for payment??

I have said before though that if as a group we want improved cycling facilities we should consider paying a "Cycling Tax". We cannot in today’s financial climate expect huge levels of investment simply by shouting loudly. We need to offer up a funding solution. The obvious caveat would be guarantees that the funds are spent on dedicated cycling project such as road improvements, cycle training and improved cycle safety projects. The huge array of advantages unfortunately to do create a political will to add the extra's we want. Whilst not all the road tax funds are used for roads it does give the motoring lobby group a much bigger voice when it shouts for improved infrastructures etc.

Jon Griffin made a huge mistake thinking he could tackle what is I feel a genuine problem with a sledge hammer. The cycling community is a strong unit and will happily and effectively rally the troops to protect itself and its reputation. I think we need to however take a step back from the Car vs. Bike argument and look at what is best for the safety of all users. It’s not about what is fair and what is not. Some cyclists are fantastically safe and no issue to cars, as there are some drivers who are brilliantly safe and considerate yet fast and able at the same time. It’s about ensuring a standard for all and not the few that are excellent to say we are good so it’s not required?

We all know a few people despite the training and passing their driving test that should never be on the road. I also know some cyclists that sit in the same category and should not be trusted on 2 wheels. Putting safeguards in place raises the standards and ensures fewer and fewer of these people on the roads. As our numbers grow we need to seriously consider our impact and stop whining when someone stops to say, hang on we need greater controls on what is the fastest growing form of transport in the UK if not the world

Surely everyone wants that? Don't we?


  1. Mmm controvertial Sire, and must say I disagree on a few points.

    To begin with you have made some assertions based on a tax that doesn't exist!

    But assuming alternatively that you mean that a motorist pays more tax into the pot than someone who purely cycles, please consider that a) so does one person who earns & spends more money than somebody else; and b) guessing here but I'd wager that 'motoring' actually takes out more from the pot than it puts in.

    As a Motorist who jumps on the M60 every morning, I don't believe that Motorists get a bad deal, even taking higher fuel prices into account. How many people who own a car have no private parking for example? Or if they do, still keep their car on the public highway?

    As a Cyclist I'm disgruntled at how a mode of transport that is a completely logical mode of transport for short journeys, is made by design of public highways to be illogical on safety/poor experience/various other grounds.

    What cycling doesn't need is to be more difficult or more expensive. It needs to be as easy as riding a bike. It doesn't need to be made inaccessible to people who use it as a cheap form of transport.

    Training is important, but less so than having the environment to cycle in. What we need to do as a country is stop pretending that we know what we are talking about when it comes to the bicycle, and start learning from other countries that have been there, done it & made cycling successful.

  2. You make a strong argument. My point however is not really about who is paying for the upkeep of the roads and keeping the traffic moving as like you said we pay our taxes for that both through our wages, council tax and the emmissions tax (or as most people still see it the road/car tax)

    The point I am making is that wehilst it will add costs to cycling making peopel proficient and have the skills to be safe as well as ensuring them against the potential risk is surely the best way to safeguard everyone.

    Why is it you can ride without training on a dual carriageway or any other road in that matter with a bike yet you cannot do so ona motorbike, car or any other form. Its madness and we need to accept that proficiency testing or training should be mandatory.

    We cannot keep blaming the cars and trucks for the injuries, not when you see inages of how some cyclists take the risks they do

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