By Rachel Kipp, The News Journal
NEWARK, Del. — Downtowns, particularly college towns, make room — and rules — for new pedicabs.
Pedicabs, adult-size tricycles with room in the back for passengers, have gone from the occasional tourist attraction to a more prominent means of public transportation, prompting a race by cities to beef up safety ordinances amid backlash from automobile cab operators.
In New York City, a string of traffic accidents and brawls involving pedicab drivers prompted officials to impose new regulations. By Nov. 20, all pedicab businesses must be registered and licensed with the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs.
“The New York Police Department will enforce this law to the fullest extent,” said Consumer Affairs spokeswoman Elizabeth Miller. Operators must agree to an annual safety inspection, too.
Since the licensing process began, 16 pedicab businesses have applied, with 77 affiliated pedicabs and 80 drivers, but the office hopes to see a rush just before the deadline, Miller said. “By the industry estimates, there are over 1,000 pedicab drivers on the street,” she said.
It’s not just a big-city issue. Dan Werner, director of sales and marketing for manufacturer Main Street Pedicabs, said he used to sell primarily to big cities but has seen an increase in orders from what he calls “small-town USA.” Recently, he fielded pedicab business inquiries from Akron, Ohio; Sandpoint, Idaho; and Modesto, Calif. Some of the interest is generated by the public’s thirst for environmentally friendly travel options and ways to avoid traffic during big events, he said.
“The downtown life is big for pedicabs,” he said, particularly in college towns.
Speeding up safeguards
Once just a summertime sight in Delaware, pedicabs have moved from the beach to the streets of downtown Newark. This fall, two pedicab companies launched service in the college town of about 30,000 people to ferry University of Delaware students and others to and from the restaurants and bars that line Main Street.
Newark had no pedicab-specific regulations when Matt Greenberg and Sean Hague, owners of Green Rides, tried to apply for a business license. Pedicab companies are now required to get business licenses and show proof of insurance for their vehicles. Green Rides and the other pedicab company, College Taxi, talked with Newark police about installing lights and other safeguards.
The city of Bloomington, Ind., had no regulations for pedicabs when a business started there in 2008, targeting Indiana University students seeking transportation to downtown nightlife. Legislation is in the works, but it comes with controversy.
“We were contacted by the yellow cab companies saying, ‘Hey, this isn’t fair, and how can they cherry-pick the downtown and do what they want to do when we have to serve the entire city limits, we have to operate 365 days a year, and we have to have a physical building?’ ” said Adam Wason, the city’s assistant economic development director.
In Arlington, Texas, City Council members are mulling a pedicab ordinance, Councilman Jimmy Bennett said.
“What we’re looking at is … do we need to become involved in regulating it with regard to public safety?” Bennett said.
Pedicab regulations that recently passed in Marietta, Ga., require that drivers post the company’s business license and rates inside each vehicle, similar to the procedures followed by taxi cab drivers, said Brian Binzer, director of development services.
This past year, the City Council in Salem, Mass., passed a host of regulations to deal with the rising pedicab industry, member Steven Pinto said.
“Pedicabs started popping up (for the tourists), and we didn’t have anything on the books to deal with them,” he said. The new ordinances deal with certification, liability and traffic safety, he said.
Hailed for filling a void
As baseball fans watched the Yankees take on the Angels inside a Newark pizzeria last month, pedicab drivers from College Taxi and Green Rides were parked at the curb. The safety lights on the pedicabs created a blinking red glare on the sidewalk as the drivers waited for passengers and traded stories about customizing their rides.
The two new Newark pedicab services were started to fill a void created when public safety officials at the University of Delaware said they would stop providing safety escort rides to students.
“I think it’s decent, especially for college people … and it’s good for very tired people like us, who are standing on our feet all day,” Timmon said.
Their trip to the bus stop was powered by Ross Sylvester, co-owner of College Taxi. “They (pedicabs) turn heads when we’re riding down the street. We immediately got a great response. I think the student body really embraced it because on campus there’s no real form of transportation other than the buses,” Sylvester, 20, said.
Pedicab drivers began pedaling at the University of Oregon and Washington State University this fall.
Contributing: Jessica Leving of USA TODAY in McLean, Va.Tags: dan werner, downtown, Environmentally, Main Street, Main Street Pedicabs, manufacturer, nightlife, Pedicab, pedicab business, pedicab driver, pedicab drivers, Pedicab News, pedicab service, pedicabs, street pedicabs, taxi cab, tricycle