In 2010, Addison Lee’s iPhone app was responsible for £23m in fare revenue. Because of the Addison Lee chairman’s recent ‘Ratner-moment’ comments many cyclists – including high-placed executives in top London firms, owners of expensive carbon composite bicycles – are planning to lobby their firms to cancel their Addison Lee corporate accounts. Some are also leaving negative reviews on iTunes, home to the Addison Lee iPhone app (there’s also an Android app). The app will then be "ritually deleted", one exec told BikeBiz.
The iPhone app is now being given one stars – the lowest possible – which is degrading the app’s star rating, which could negatively impact on downloads. There’s a selection of the latest scathing reviews on iPayRoadTax.com.
Online – and offline – protests are a growing part of cycling, a tactic gently mocked by Andy Waterman on Twitter. He said:
"When will people learn: DON’T SAY ANYTHING ABOUT CYCLISTS. We have no sense of humour and can/will mobilise an internet campaign in seconds."
However, calls for the boycott of Addison Lee are going mainstream. The Times today carries an article about the boycott and Green Mayoral candidate Jenny Jones said: “To suggest that the victims of road traffic incidents only have themselves to blame is horrifically offensive to the families of those who have lost their lives or been injured on London’s roads. I will not again use an Addison Lee taxi and am happy to join those calling for a total boycott of their organisation.”
Transport journalist Christian Wolmar said:
"[John Griffin, chairman of Addison Lee] is under the total misapprehension that fuel and excise taxes are hypothecated to road spending, which is politically illiterate from someone who is a large political donor and who apparently has met transport ministers to put forward his thoughts about minicabs using cycle lanes. I’ve always rather liked Addison Lee as their drivers – when I have used them for media interviews – have been good, but clearly Griffin is an irresponsible boss who is inciting his drivers to disobey the law on bus lanes and pay little heed to cyclists."
"All mayoral candidates must come out strongly against this nonsense and organisations such as the BBC, Sky and other major users of Addison Lee should swiftly end their contracts. Hit Griffin where it hurts!"
Griffin said: “As a motorist, you lose moments of attention. It can happen. For you, that is a dent in the car. For a cyclist, it’s a broken leg. You have to acknowledge that. Cyclists have to play a full part in protecting themselves. I’m drawing attention to that…But we find ourselves sharing the road with someone who is untrained, uninsured and inexperienced. A solution needs to be found.”
He said the idea of separated cycle lanes was an “unachievable dream” due to London’s street layout that dated back hundreds of years (note: a street layout that wasn’t designed for motorcars…):
“We are not anti-cyclist. We are just asking themselves to play a part in protecting themselves…This isn’t a one-way street. This is about all of us sharing minimal space. If they are not going to help that happen, because we have the ‘holier than thou’ cyclist brigade, they have got that wrong…There needs to be a cycling proficiency test. Cyclists should take that test before they are allowed on the roads. It’s in their interest. We would become more appreciative of the efforts they are making.”
Griffin also wrote a (more reasoned) blog for Huffington Post UK.
One of the reasons some cyclists give for their apprehension over seeing Addison Lee minicabs in bus lanes is their haste and impatience. Unlike black taxi cabs, which are metered and which are operated by highly-trained drivers, Addison Lee drivers are not so highly trained and, it is claimed, are often in a rush to get to their next job.
In The Guardian, a former Addison Lee driver, spelled this out. Tom Lanigan said that car hire, rent of an onboard computer, cleaning and insurance, all from Addison Lee companies, costs drivers up to £350 a week. A points-based incentive system means the more jobs drivers take, the less they have to pay the company, he said.
"You are looking at a good 12-hour day, six days a week to make a decent living. You earn £150 to £200 a shift but out of that you need to pay Addison Lee expenses, which used to average £60 to £80 a week, and fuel which can be £200 a week."
Alternatives to Addison Lee include Green Tomato Cars, an "environmentally friendly car service", with a fleet made up of Toyota Prius, a hybrid electric vehicle that doesn’t pay car tax. There’s also the Hailo app for booking black taxi cabs and @LCtaxiapp, formerly @TweetaLondonCab. LCtaxiapp is a collective of licensed London taxi drivers. And Ubicabs works with a number of London minicab companies: it has smartphone apps.
Unite, Britain’s biggest union, has demanded that the London mayor Boris Johnson "comes clean on his relationship with Addison Lee."
Unite represents London bus workers and black cab drivers. The union is demanding answers to questions regarding the mayor’s relationship with the minicab firm Addison Lee and its chairman John Griffin.
1. Will Boris Johnson condemn Addison Lee for advocating illegal action and review the company’s license to operate?
2. Has any of the money that the Tories have received from John Griffin or Addison Lee been spent on Boris Johnson’s re-election campaign?
3. Will the Conservative party and Boris Johnson return any donations and refuse to accept any more?
4. What will Boris Johnson do about minicabs using bus lanes? Will he promise now to resist Addison Lee’s demands or will he cave in to illegal action?
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said:
"Mr Johnson will condemn unions at any opportunity for acting within the law but he has said nothing about a man who wants to illegally disrupt London’s roads. Why will he not personally condemn a man who is instructing his drivers to break the law on London’s roads?"
A spokesman for Boris Johnson’s re-election campaign has replied to the above:
“Unite has today asked a number of questions of Boris Johnson regarding Addison Lee, the answers to all of which are very straightforward.
“They have asked whether he will condemn the company’s actions to which the answer is yes, just as he already has. They have asked whether he has received any money from Addison Lee for his re-election campaign. The answer to that is no – in contrast of course to the money Ken Livingstone has received from Unite. Their next question on whether he will return any donations is therefore not applicable.
“They have also asked what he will do about minicabs using bus lanes, to which the answer is that he will continue to oppose it with all the powers he has as Mayor, for as long as he remains Mayor. Finally, they have asked him to promise not to cave in to Addison Lee which he has never had any intention of doing.
“John Griffin’s actions are irresponsible and unacceptable, and Boris Johnson does not agree with his comments on cycling.”