Thinking Outside The Bus Lane.Bicycles Urban Cycling Stories
In London, bus lanes which fall under the jurisdiction of the City Of Westminster are also cleared for use by cyclists. This is, broadly speaking, a Good Thing. Buses are big, slow and noisy. You can generally hear or see them coming from the vantage point of your saddle if you're paying a little attention. And when they've passed, you can then continue to luxuriate in the extra space that a bus lane provides for somebody on two human powered wheels, while others sit gridlocked in their cars, blood pressure rocketing.
One person who could possibly tell us a little about blood pressure is John Griffin, CEO of London's largest minicab firm Addison Lee.
The minicab game is a high octane, high stress, Rollercoaster of Emotions for all parties involved. With competitors perennially undercutting each other, it's all you can do to hang on to your most prized accounts. And driver turnover, while not quite on a par with bike messaging, is rather high.
It's reckoned that London minicab base controllers hear the sentence "I'm still stuck in the (expletive deleted) traffic" 17 times per minute of every shift.
When is a taxi not a taxi? When it's a minicab! Note the Limited Edition White Swallow.
So Time naturally being of the Essence for minicab firms, it was only a matter of, well, time until someone in charge decided to reinterpret the Highway Code for their own benefit.
Step forward Mr. Griffin!
He reckons his minicab drivers are within their rights to use bus lanes, and has instructed them to henceforth do so, if and when they see fit. He has also generously promised to cover any traffic fines they incur. These instructions come at a time when, by his own admission, London is experiencing a huge upturn in bicycle use.
Mr. Griffin has predicted that this influx of novice riders will necessarily translate into more accidents involving bikes. Of course, he has neglected to mention that by extension, some of these accidents may now be likely to also involve minicab drivers. And who knows, maybe even minicab drivers in bus lanes who weren't supposed to be in said bus lanes!
As of this morning, it remained unclear as to whether Mr. Griffin was also prepared to cover costs above and beyond a traffic fine in the event of the unthinkable.
At any rate, several prominent Addison Lee account holders have switched service providers, and there are several online cycling advocacy groups encouraging others to do likewise. A petition calling for the withdrawal of their trading license is also doing the rounds.