The boss of one of London’s largest taxi firms, Addison Lee, has caused outrage among the capital’s cyclists after he said that cyclists are putting themselves in danger and should pay up to ride on the city’s roads.

John Griffin’s comments came as part of an editorial written for the company’s AddLib customer magazine. The piece has now spread across the internet as cyclists rail against his sentiments.

“Green party candidates and others are up in arms about what they see as the murder of cyclists on London roads,” wrote Griffin. 

“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,” continued Griffin. “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’.”

Green Party London Assembly member and mayoral candidate Jenny Jones has called for a boycott of Addison Lee cabs in protest against Griffin’s comments.

“These remarks demonstrate a shocking disregard for the lives and safety of London’s growing number of cyclists and road users in general,” said Jones.

“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.”

A cyclists ‘die-in’ flashmob protest outside Addison Lee’s offices has been organised via Facebook for Monday April 23 at 6pm.

Griffin has been a the centre of controversy in the past week for telling his estimated 3,500 drivers to use London bus lanes. Currently, only bicycles, motorcycles, buses and black cabs can use the lanes. Any other user risks being fined, but Griffin has said that he’ll gladly pay the fine of any Addison Lee driver that uses the lanes.

Griffin says that it is unfair that black cabs are allowed to use the lanes, but his private-hire taxis are not. He says that it is leading to loss of business as his cabs are held up in regular traffic.

The move has embarrassed Conservatives, and in particular Mayor of London Boris Johnson. Johnson has advised Transport for London to take legal action against Addison Lee. However, the taxi company assisted Johnson in his mayoral campaign by donating £25,000. The company has also donated £250,000 to the Conservatives in the past.

Cycle safety has been pushed high on the political agenda this spring after the Times newspaper started its Cities Fit for Cycling campaign. As a result, a three-hour cross-party parliamentary debate took place in February in an attempt to address cycle safety issues.

Related links



MPs turn out in force for parliamentary cycle safety debate

  • S Bagnall

    blood boiling!

  • Richard Wheeler

    I was knock off my bike by an Addison Lee cab 4 weeks ago when the cab came out of a side road on Kilburn High Road. Face mangled, Bike written off and then to hear this sort of comment by the Chairman of the company who hit me makes me so angry. I am a Cyclist who also drives in and around London so can see this from Both Sides of the Fence. I would gladly trade places with an Addison Lee Driver as Long as they came on a Bike journey to learn what we have to contend with. My injuries are now well on the way to recovery, however my Bike isnt.

  • Christine

    Having recently moved to London I have been appalled by the behaviour of cyclists, the highway code is obviously not something they feel they have to adhere to. Jumping lights, breaking the speed limit, riding dangerously close to the rear of cars, sliding in between cars, I could go on and on. This is apart from their arrogant, smugness that is quite frankly nauseating. I have never had a near miss with a car but I have had several instances with cyclists, with abuse thrown in for my trouble. Cyclists are a blight on London I am afraid and I am talking as a walker not a driver. They should be made accountable.

  • Jon

    “agree with Mr Griffin , a large percentage of cyclists i have been unfortunate enough to encounter in London and around the country are foul mouthed often swearing or spitting and sometimes kicking motorists cars.”

    I must confess on occasion I swear at motorists, but only when they endanger my life or deliberately try to intimidate me, and I once kicked a car, after it drove into me out of a side road and sent me flying over the handlebars. I wonder if greentea02’s experiences of “abusive” cyclists have anything to do with his own driving and the way he treats cyclists?

  • nednoodle

    There is now a petition by the London Cycling Campaign to get Addison Lee’s licence withdrawn for blatantly disregarding bus lanes…I hope he IS another Ratner. He is very stupid to make such comments when cycling is undergoing such growth and the Olympics are on the way…
    http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/33116

  • David Kelly

    I have been cycling in London for 18 years and have seen a growing trend amongst professional drivers (laughable term of phrase, they are just the same morons plucked from the world’s armpits) to cut cyclist up in order to make some neanderthal statement that they have more right to be on the roads of London.

    Most taxi drivers pay nearly no tax – its largely cash payments – and only pay the excise duty on their car, whereas cyclist pay for the roads in the same way as other tax payers through general taxation. And yet these utter morons think they they own the roads and dictate who can and cannot use them by simple acts of violence.

    Unfortunately this contempt, apart from the Times bless them, permeates through the majority of the population. James Whale called us something like vermin and I have read enough articles stating that whatever deceased cyclist had only self to blame.

    This will not be fixed anytime soon, politicians dont see any votes to be had to help us vermin, and the fact that Griffin thinks its perfectly OK to make such statements shows the scale of the problem.

    I will never ride in a Addison Lee car again, hope others do the same, still he has already banked 50 million so a bit late now.

  • Howard Topham

    Maybe Mr Griffin has a point about training and insurance, but someone should remind him that cycling has been around longer then motoring!
    His encouragement to his drivers to break the law is unacceptable, he would undoubtebly be the first to complain if he saw a cyclist breaking the law.
    There are cyclists and there are people who ride bikes but some of the cyclists (Ishould point out I am a cyclist AND a motorist and many years ago drove a large truck) are their own worst enemies – ignoring red lights, riding on pavements, riding on the inside of huge trucks at junctions, if you can not see the drivers mirror he can not see you! Even if you can see his mirror, give the driver the benefit of thew doubt and assume he can not see you.
    Having said all that, some taxi drivers are the worst drivers I have ever seen, some are very good drivers I hasten to add. Unlike Mr Griffin we should not tar everyone with the same brush!!

    HowardT

  • Chris Streather

    I don’t think any cyclist should ever book an Addison Lee cab, helpful for people like this to understand market forces

  • Jon Freeman

    Mr Griffin appears to be a fool. There are also a lot of foolish people riding bicycles who disregard pedestrians. However, there are lot of sensible cyclists and a lot of sensible minicab drivers none of whom are perfect. Therefore, whilst we always talk about, and get upset about, the extreme cases the majority of us fall into a large middle ground who offend nobody. Be nice to each other and think about what you can do to make the other groups of road users think better of your group of road users. Be excellent to each other.

  • gary oldfield

    is this twerp saying that if i was to be trained and pay up to join his gang i would then have the right to ride out of the gutter and ride on the nice surface in the middle of the road like motocycles?

    some how i think not.

  • Ken Evans

    “Griffin says that it is unfair that black cabs are allowed to use the lanes….”

    I agree get ALL cabs out of the bus lanes !

    A black cab usually only has ONE passenger,
    maybe four at the most,
    a bus can carry FIFTY or more passengers.

    Taxis are used by rich people.
    Allowing them in the bus lane
    is giving rich people that can afford a “chauffeur”,
    an unfair advantage over ordinary poorer people,
    driving their car, or driving a commercial vehicle.

  • Nixtrix

    The key content that shows blatant disregard for all non-motorised road users is:

    “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,” continued Griffin. “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.

    this just compounds that SMIDSY is an acceptable excuse.

    Furthermore the following comment really doesn’t hold together coherently:

    “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.

    What the hell has being in a protected space got to do with training or paying taxes. Presumably a suggestion that if a motorist runs down a cyclist (because the extensive training obviously doesn’t cover observation or courtesy to other road users), they are the fortunate position of being unlikely to sustain injury from a flailing bike.

  • greentea02

    I agree with Mr Griffin , a large percentage of cyclists i have been unfortunate enough to encounter in London and around the country are foul mouthed often swearing or spitting and sometimes kicking motorists cars .

    Then we hear outrage from these vocal bullies whenever anybody tells the truth about how badly many cyclists conduct themselves when they are let loose on the roads .

    When you drive alot in the capital cyclists do present a serious problem .

  • James Miller

    I’m a pedestrian, as I’ve had a stroke and my eyesight isn’t good enough to drive. I walk extensively around London and find that minicabs are the most inconsiderate drivers as they often block junctions illegally making it difficult to walk safely. Buses and black cab drivers are much more considerate, especially on zebra crossings. If I have one complaint against cyclists it’s the habit of some of sneaking up the side of a large vehicle, whilst I am on the crossing. On the other hand, if I should be hit by a cyclist in such a situation, very little damage would result to either party. But I’ve avoided them so far, as I’m very careful and remember the bad cycling habits of my youth.

  • Howard

    The attitude of John Griffin and the ‘we are above the law’ attitudes that he instils in his drivers irrevocably demonstrate why private hire vehicles must never be allowed in bus lanes that are shared with cyclists.

    Let’s hope that he doesn’t have the politicians in his pocket (as he appears to believe), that this frankly fascistic little man is brought to book, and that his company is certainly not awarded any official contracts, especially in relation to moving people around for the Olympics.

  • Richard Thomas

    As not paying to use the roads seems to everyone’s argument against cyclist, are drivers of electric and other super clean low emission cars who pay no road tax going to be slated in the same way.

  • Steve Upchurch

    I hope this is a Gerald Ratner moment!!

  • Stuart Mee

    Let’s hope that the full force of the law comes down on every one of his cabs that uses bus lanes, and that Boris J and the Conservatives disassociate themselves from this law breaker. They should refuse any further donations from his company. Something else these cab drivers don’t seem to realise is that every cyclist means one less car on the road to hold them up. If all London’s cyclists took to their cars we’d have gridlock.

  • Tom

    After 5 years of cycling in the capital I can personally attest that Addison Lee cab drivers are the absolute worst. Forget black cabs and buses; this lot are in a special idiotic category of their own. They unfailing cut up and come too close. It comes as no surprise that they are lead by such a moron.

  • Mike Waring

    We certainly are putting ourselves in danger. Addison Lee’s drivers are the worst on London’s streets in my experience.

  • IanH

    Always entertaining to watch big mouths shooting themselves in the foot. As has been reported in Cycling Weekly before, cyclists exist at every level of almost every organisation in the country. I’d be very surprised if there aren’t lots of cyclists amongst his 4000 employees (and more importantly to him, his customers). Queue the upcoming PR campaign as he realises just how many people he’s upset who turn out to be very important to him (see chef James Martin vs cyclists during 2009).

  • nednoodle

    What an idiot! He has shown himself to be a complete bigot and extremely stupid (cyclists do pay our way via taxes which pay for the roads. What he refers to as “road tax” is Vehicle Excise Duty and this is not used to pay for roads). Has he not considered that cyclists may be a large customer base, particularly as many of us don’t own cars. I often use cabs at night if going out. Cyclist today, cab customer tomorrow! I certainly won’t be using the cabs of this vile man ever again.

  • Lee

    I suggest the we, as cyclists, write to Mr Griffin (you can contact them via their website), telling him how wrong he is and won’t consider using his company for travel around the capital.

    Colnago Dave, I echo your sentiments.

  • Patrick Weston

    Well, perhaps the boss of Addison Lee needs to be aware that those cyclists using London’s roads to get to work also buy his company’s services when they’re at work. I, for one, will stop using them as of now.

    How do we point out to this “gentleman” that many cyclists also have cars, pay insurance, servicing, etc.?

  • Matthew West

    Hmm, given how his employees drive – I reckon about 50% of the idiotic things I see on my way into and out of work are committed by Addison Lee drivers – he should have a pretty good idea of how dangerous it is out there. Perhaps if they trained their staff better…..

  • Colnago Dave

    Too Bloody true and some of the worst drivers we face are cab drivers. I am fed up being cut up by so callled professional drivers including PC Plod