Addison Lee

I’m sure you are aware of the recent uproar caused by Addison Lee boss John Griffin when he declared that his drivers should break the law by driving in London’s bus lanes (see video here), promising to reimburse any fines that they might incur for doing so, whilst encouraging an attitude of SMIDSY (“sorry mate, I didn’t see you”) as being something that cyclists just have to get used to.

The courts are currently in the process of blocking AdLee cabs from entering bus lanes, but do your part by raising awareness amongst your friends: this article from The Evening Standard might help towards making your blood boil.

If you haven’t read the inflammatory article from Addison Lee’s ‘Chairman’s Column’ of their free Spring 2012 Add Lib magazine, see what you make of this:

“Green party candidates and others are up in arms about what they see as the murder of Cyclists on London Roads. There has, as we all know, been a tremendous upsurge in cycling and cycling shops.

This summer the roads will be thick with bicycles, These cyclists are throwing themselves onto some of the most congested spaces in the world. They leap onto 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 roadspace have had to undego 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. It is time for us to say to cyclists ‘You want to join our gang, get trained and pay up’.

John Griffin Chairman”

If you want to make a stand, you can sign a petition to have Addison Lee’s license revoked:

Now, as a passenger, I cannot deny that AddLee provide a great service, but as a cyclist I have been in many situations where Addison Lee cabs have overtaken only to quickly turn left into me, overtaken without giving sufficient space to ensure my safety, turned left without indicating thus not giving me time to manouevre and all those inconsiderate faults that make cycling dangerous in cities.
The danger is not because I am ‘throwing myself onto one of the most congested spaces in the world’, it’s because these drivers aren’t just being permitted to disregard vulnerable cyclists, they are being encouraged to do so through the ignorant spiels of those who are too comfortable armoured within their vehicles where even if they do happen to get a little blood under their wheels it will only take a drive through the car wash to cleanse their consciences.

Signing the petition isn’t really about killing off Addison Lee, it’s about killing off the disgusting attitude that makes people think that if cyclists die then maybe they should have been more careful.

Cyclists and the Highway Code

Not everybody has the time or inclination to read the Highway Code. Let’s face it, it’s hardly as exciting as reading the newest Game of Thrones book. But it is an interesting read for the most part and I highly recommend it, not only because as a cyclists you have a responsibility to other road users to understand the rules of the road, but also because being informed will provide you with ammunition to be able to cycle with confidence because you know what your rights are.

rule163“The most vulnerable road users are pedestrians, particularly children, older or disabled people, cyclists, motorcyclists and horse riders. It is important that all road users are aware of the Code and are considerate towards each other. This applies to pedestrians as much as to drivers and riders.

Many of the rules in the Code are legal requirements, and if you disobey these rules you are committing a criminal offence. You may be fined, given penalty points on your licence or be disqualified from driving. In the most serious cases you may be sent to prison. Such rules are identified by the use of the words ‘MUST/MUST NOT’. In addition, the rule includes an abbreviated reference to the legislation which creates the offence. An explanation of the abbreviations can be found in ‘The road user and the law’.”

I have combed the code with the help of my Kindle, and collected the clauses that are relevant to cyclists, whether that be as law directly addressing us, or regarding how others should behave when cyclists are around…..

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Cyclists, know your rights!

On my way to work this morning, I glanced over a fellow passenger’s shoulder and spotted a headline that caught my eye. Now I’m not one for reading over people’s shoulders, but when I’m informed that “25% of drivers want road tax for cyclists” (read the article at Metro), my metaphorical ears perk up and my brow furrows with outrage. The issue is road tax is something that I have come across in the past on various occasions, both in passing, and in confrontation with ill-informed motorists. The most recent example of this is when a woman with three children in the back of her Land Rover tried to squeeze past me in a single lane alley and when I indicated that she should back off (and no, I didn’t swear at her) she proceeded to rant about how she pays road tax so I should get out of the way.

If you are a cyclist in the UK take note:

‘Road Tax’ does not exist. What motorists pay is VED – vehicle excise duty, which is a tax calculated according to the vehicle’s emissions, and bicycles do not pollute therefore a cyclist’s VED is £0.00. This VED is the tax disc that cars display on their windscreens.

The article states “that 25 per cent of drivers believe that those on bicycles should contribute to the cost of maintaining the roads”
It does not bother to follow this statement by clarifying that roads are maintained by the borough council. Therefore if you are a UK taxpayer who does not dodge your council tax, you contribute towards the upkeep of roads.

It is vital to put an end to this misinformation. The article quotes a few statistics relating to motorists’ opinion on cyclists’ “free-loading”, with no mention of the fact that a lot of those opinions are mistaken. Next time a motorist in the throes of road rage rolls down the car window and hollers at you that you don’t pay road tax – you can scoff at how much better informed you are than the troll behind the wheel.

Please read the article and if you can, drop it into your next conversation. There is no excuse for road rage against cyclists – who are in every way more vulnerable than motorists, and the best way to put a stop to it is simply to educate. One person at a time, if needs be.

For further reading on this, here are a couple of good reads. I strongly recommend the Guardian article.
“Cyclists are not tax dodgers” @The Guardian
“Bloody cyclists / Cyclists don’t pay road tax” @Chapman Central
“Editorial: Marketing campaign asks the wrong question”

The best way for a cyclist to stay out of trouble, and get out of any misconceived trouble that finds you is simply to be clued up on what your rights are and what the law is. For this purpose, the UK Cycle Rules blog is a fantastic blog to follow, keeping you informed on everything from what you can (and can’t!) get a fixed penalty notice for, to how to handle tricky shared path situations and other cycle law Must Knows.


EDIT 22/11/11: I came across this site this morning discussing the study that provided the statistics for the inflammatory journalism.

Something for the weekend…

Cycling across Waterloo Bridge on the weekend is somewhat more hazardous than during the week – namely because with no Congestion Charge at the weekend, the bridge presents Londoners with free parking opportunities. The main thing to remember when you come across a long line of parked cars is to give them a wide berth and stay well outside of the door zone once your cycle lane begins to become a car park. In the capital of Lithuania however, cycle lanes disappearing under parked cars is becoming pretty rare thanks to its Mayor, Arturas Zuokas. What are the chances of Boris Johnson taking a leaf out of his book?

Read more here.

How to…

…be courteous when on four wheels. AKA. Motorists take note!

So after my journey-gone-sour into work yesterday. I’m on a mission. Simply put, it is to encourage motorists to (and indeed remind them that they must) INDICATE. Amongst other things. But seriously, cyclists need to learn to balance one handed to indicate a turn, cars only need to flick a lever so why do I so rarely see people actually doing it nowadays?

We all know that after a while driving becomes like most things, a matter of habit. The danger comes when the habits aren’t good ones, or aware ones. So next time people ask you if you find cycling dangerous, don’t smile sweetly and contradict them, respond that it would be safer if motorists would remember to ALWAYS:
– check their mirrors before turning.
– indicate their intention with plenty of noti
ce before turning so that cyclists can respond accordingly.
– check their mirrors before opening car doors, and opening carefully rather than swinging open suddenly.
– when joining traffic, ensuring that the road really IS clear. Remember, the cycle lane is the first thing you will cross.
– overtake with plenty of room between you and the cyclist as you overtake, and also after when you pull back into the lane ahead of them.

– consider WHY you are overtaking. Is it because you simply don’t like driving behind a cyclist?
– leave plenty of room for a cyclist ahead of you too: tailgating is DANGEROUS.
– DO NOT stop in the advanced sto
p zone. Motorists are required by LAW (Highway Code 178) to stop at the first line, NOT in the cycle box.
– SMIDSY (“sorry mate I didn’t see you”) is NOT an acceptable excuse.

Local Councils have been steadily increasing safety levels for cyclists by introducing new cycle lanes, repaving roads and educating HGV drivers and cyclists themselves as to how to avoid collisions with one another. London is wallpapered with posters encouraging cyclists not to filter at traffic lights, to beware of HGVs, and so on. At the other end of the spectrum bus conductors have been receiving training which includes a DVD entitled ‘Big Bus, Little Bike’.

Yet with this reportedly annual training, how do you explain the bus drivers that overtake simply to pull into a bus stop directly ahead? Or the one I encountered yesterday on Waterloo Road who coasted on the edge of the cycle lane I was in and simply stared at me as I struggled to turn the corner onto the bridge with the little space he had left me. There appeared to be no reason for him to pull up beside me in that vulnerable point of road other than to peer out at me.

A lot of cycle safety information tends to be geared towards cyclists but as the London Cycling Campaign appropriately pointed out in their response to one of TFL’s poster campaigns, emphasis needs to be brought to conscientious driving above all. After all, cyclists are far more vulnerable than cars, taxis, and of course, buses and vans.

Below is an interesting excerpt from some notes I stumbled across on The full Bill is a little long winded but this particular section caught my eye.

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