By Nigel Wynn
London private hire company Addison Lee will introduce a new 'CycleCab' scheme in the capital from October 19 whereby its distinctive Ford Galaxy vehicles will carry bikes for the first time. The move comes just three years after Addison Lee's former chairman published a controversial anti-cycling rant.
The scheme allows cyclists to book a vehicle for themselves and their bike: "perfect for when the British weather turns torrential or simply when it’s been a particularly tough day at the office" says the company.
Addison Lee's drivers aim to be with a customer within seven and a half minutes of booking. The back seats of the Galaxy will be folded down to accommodate the bike, with room for two passengers.
The CycleCab scheme has been launched in conjunction with the Six Day London track event, which takes place at the Lee Valley VeloPark over October 18-23.
"We are delighted to team up with Six Day London to announce the launch of our newest product, CycleCab," said Peter Boucher, Addison Lee’s chief commercial officer. "Over the past couple of years we have seen an explosion in London cycling which we welcome.
"After consulting with our drivers we have discovered a large demand for this service and we want to make it more accessible for our customers. We are happy to be the first company to bring this product to market and excited to enhance our relationship with London’s cycling community.”
The introduction of the scheme marks a remarkable and welcome U-turn for the company - Europe's largest private hire provider - which found itself at the centre of controversy in 2012 when former Addison Lee chairman and founder John Griffin published a rant against cyclists in his company's customer magazine.
After complaining that an "influx of beginner cyclists is going to lead to an overall increase in accidents involving cyclists", Griffin said that cyclists should "get trained and pay up" to use the roads.
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Griffin's comments came in the same week that he had instructed his drivers to use London's bus lanes, which are reserved for bicycles, motorcycles, buses and black cabs. It led to widespread criticism and a severe backlash against the company, leading to the loss of its government contract and a High Court injunction preventing its drivers from using bus lanes.
Griffin left the company in 2014, and that particular chapter in Addison Lee's history now appears to be firmly closed.
"Addison Lee is a strong supporter of London’s cyclists and ensures each of their drivers goes through a cyclist awareness training programme," the company said in its CycleCab press statement.
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