Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Addison Lee - Redemption?

So I was cycling along the same old boring road I always do under the grey, freezing cold skies which are always there whilst thinking about what it would be like if I had a turbo button on my bicycle, when out of nowhere a car overtook me using the WHOLE OTHER LANE FOR SPACE.

Yep, the whole other lane! I had ample room to wobble and jerk over the potholes as I pleased without fear of necking it into a passing car.

All thoughts of turbo buttons and hot days were dispelled as I looked ahead to catch a glimpse of this goodwill, safety driver and the set of wheels they were rolling in. And shock horror, it was an Addison Lee car ahead of me!

Addison Lee cabs got into hot water a year ago after big boss, John Griffin shamefully berated cyclists saying that cyclist deaths and injuries are largely the fault of cyclists and that drivers are not to blame. And what followed was a PR nightmare for Addison Lee with a protest and a boycott of their services. (Griffin obviously wasn't clever enough to realise that many of his customers are cyclists)

Addison Lee cabs have never been a favourite amongst the cycling community, they are like black flies on the road persistently buzzing around you waiting for a cheap move to cut you up. They are also enemies with fellow black cabbies after Griffin encouraged his staff to flout the law and drive in bus lanes.

With cyclists and black cab drivers uniting in April last year, it was evident that Addison Lee cabs were the most hated vehicles on the roads of London. So fancy my surprise to find that an Addison Lee driver had been considerate and careful when passing me on the road. It is such a rarity that a driver uses the other lane to pass me, even when they is no traffic on either side of the road, let alone being an Addison Lee taxi driver.

I have been aware that to improve their disastrous image, Addison Lee have been working with Cycle Training UK offering taxi specific cycle training for their drivers. I also can't remember the last time an Addison Lee driver cut me up on the road, which was a frequent occurrence in the past.

Coincidentally, in the last year Griffin seems to have accrued a bicycle (see below), but is having trouble getting out of the AddLee car park. Perhaps he's scared he might get cut up by one of his car drivers and be on his maiden voyage into the abyss.  Or maybe he's just waiting for his high-vis gear to arrive from Wiggle.

Mr Griffin 'takin' muh bike fo' uh ride Ya' know what I'm sayin'?' Source: Cab4now.com
So what does this mean?

Does this mean that Addison Lee really have improved their reputation and relationship with cyclists? Are they now polite, considerate road users, happy to share the tarmac with bicycles? Or was my experience just a one off? Either way, I'm still reluctant to hop into their cabs...

UPDATE: Hot of the Twitter press, Stagecoach West Ham bus drivers are also receiving cycle training with Cycle Training UK. Let the revolution begin!


the Slow Schlepper said...

Kudos to you for getting the shot. Perhaps the driver was a student putting him/herself through college.Perhaps when not driving the cab,he or she rides a bike?

Stockholm bike commuter said...

Well. The first picture doesn't serve them good. In a crossing that is clogged, blocking the path for pedestrians. An idiot behind the wheel who should have waited before the stop sign.

Paul M said...

My firm uses Ad Lee a lot - we have an account and are supposed to use them in preference to taxis. (In theory our sustainability policy says we should use buses or tubes but in reality that rarely happens - you can discuss confidential stuff in a taxi and if there are four of you the cost isn't that much more than a bus).

I do find their driving style can be aggressive, seen both from inside and outside their vehicles, but I woudl like to put in a word for the drivers - and for drivers of many other vehicles from white vans to aggregates trucks.

These guys are just poor schmucks trying to claw a living out of an unforgiving system - they aren't paid an hourly wage, but piece rates, per trip or whatever. In many cases they own their own vehicles so have to run just to stand still, to cover the overheads. Ad Lee drivers have to pay a lease charge for the car, and are then paid the fares booled - presumably less a handling charge - and the fare structure is a banded series of flat charges. The more trips they can get in the better chance of paying off the lease charge and making a living for themselves. The faster they can go, the better chance of getting in more trips.

Classic black cabs don't work like that. The meter measures distance and time so they are paid more for longer journeys and for delays in traffic. Sure, it adds to the cost for the customer but it takes away the motivation to cut corners. Cabbies are not perfect but they are generally better for it. And why should a private hire car journey be cheap? If you really need one, eg if you have something heavy to carry, or it is after public transport closes, then you will have to pay, but otherwise you can't stray much more than a hundred yards or so from a tube or bus stop anywhere in central London.

Meanwhile, the remuneration model for drivers is basically a scandal, probably originating under the Thatcher regime but no doubt fostered by her disciple Tony Blair. In this, as in so many other fields, it is high time that the balance between employer and employed was redressed.

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