John Griffin of Addison Lee was on BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning trying to defend his policy of encouraging his 3500 drivers to illegally enter London's bus lanes. However, the millionare donor to the Tory party couldn't make it to the studio because, said presenter Justin Webb, he was "rather wonderfully stuck in traffic."
Oh, the irony.
If Addison Lee wins its judicial review against Transport for London's policy of only allowing bikes, buses and black cabs in bus lanes, 50,000+ minicabs will start using bus lanes. This will bring London to a grinding halt (as if it isn't gridlocked enough).
And with minicabs in bus lanes, cyclists will be put in more danger.
Griffin told the Today programme via telephone that his campaign wasn't anti-cyclist but was all about equality between private hire vehicle companies and black cab taxis. He said that if he can't get his cars into bus lanes, he would be just as happy for black cabs to be banned from bus lanes.
Griffin has poked a hornet's nest.
Had he waited for the conclusion of the judicial review he requested his company might not have lost the Government private hire contract and his company's reputation wouldn't have been dragged through the mud on social media. By encouraging illegal use of bus lanes in advance of the due legal process he severely weakened his case and did much damage to whatever 'corporate social responsibility' policies the company may have said it possessed.
Opposing him on the Today programme today was Eleanor Besley, a policy advisor at Sustrans. Via Twitter she has been pointing to the Sustrans policy statement on Addison Lee.
This asks whether drivers have more rights on the roads than cyclists.
The policy statement says:
"It's been a week since London minicab firm Addison Lee came under fire because of some irresponsible comments about cycling made by its chairman John Griffin. We've been asked what we think about the furore and now we're going head-to-head with Mr Griffin on Radio 4's today programme to talk it over.
"'You want to join our gang, get trained and pay up," said Mr Griffin, reflecting his belief that drivers having 'rights' to the road that cyclists do not have.
"John Griffin does not speak for all drivers, all minicab drivers or even all Addison Lee drivers. We hear overwhelmingly from cabbies that they are appalled by his views and his comments have sparked a wave of camaraderie among cyclists and black cab drivers."
Sustrans then provides a summary of why John Griffin's statements about cyclists are so wrong.
"Road Tax was abolished in 1937 - 75 years ago! You pay tax on most vehicles but our roads are funded for by taxes that everyone pays - car owner or not. Our streets are a public space and we each have a right to use them as we see fit, be that walking to school with the kids, cycling to work, getting a bus to the shops or driving to see your mum. Roads do not belong to the driver alone."
Sustrans welcomed Griffin's request for more cyclist training but said:
"The outcome would likely be far from Griffin's dream - it'd mean many more cyclists on the road. And we're not just talking about hardened cyclists either. We want grannies, kids, parents - basically everyone - to feel that cycling is an option for them. As well as more funding for training we'd need safer routes, slower speed limits and a better relationship between drivers and cyclists."