By St. John Barned-Smith
Philadelphia Daily News, November 3, 2009
Energetic entrepreneurs will be peddling a new form of transportation in the city soon – at least, they will be if City Council votes as expected to legalize and regulate the pedicab industry.
Pedicabs, or bicycles that tow a trailer with seating for two to four passengers, are common in Boston, New York, San Francisco, Seattle and other cities.
City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown decided to introduce the pedicab legislation after seeing the vehicles in New York City.
“I came back to Philadelphia . . . [and] saw there were a couple of pedicab companies, but they were not regulated,” she said.
“I thought it would be a chance to get Philadelphia on the map like other cities and municipalities around the country,” she said. “It creates eco-friendly jobs and is a tourist attraction. It would add charm to the city.”
The bill is scheduled for a Council vote on Nov. 12.
The lack of pedicab regulation in the city had been a problem for local companies and for operators in other cities that wanted to set up shop here.
Ben and Tom Dambman co-own Chariots of Philly, a pedicab company that operated in Manayunk from 2003 until 2005.
When the brothers tried to expand into other parts of Philadelphia, the Department of Licenses and Inspections ordered them to cease operations until pedicab regulation was in place.
For the last three summers, they operated their business in Avalon, N.J.
“We want to work exclusively in Philadelphia – this is our home, and this is where we want to live and work,” said Tom Dambman.
Assuming the legislation passes, Dambman said, “Hopefully, within a couple of weeks we’ll be up and running.”
They hope to have 20 employees by next spring, he said.
Ben Morris, president of Boston Pedicab, also runs pedicab services in Newport, R.I., and San Francisco. He looked into expanding to Philadelphia in spring 2008.
“I thought it would have been a really good fit,” he said. The lack of regulation prevented him, he said.
Now that the legislation looks likely to pass, he said he would “absolutely” look into starting an operation here.
“We’re always looking to expand,” he said.
Philly cycling enthusiasts cheered the news.
“It’s good for the environment, it helps the health and quality of life for Philadelphians,” said John Boyle, advocacy director of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia. “It helps residents and tourists quickly get to where they need to go, and provides green jobs for the city.”
If Philadelphia cabbies were worried by the possibility of competition, they were playing it cool.
“We have two different markets,” said Ronald Blount, president of the Taxi Workers Alliance of Pennsylvania.
“Their market is more of novelty travel.”
And in winter, he said, “no one I know is going to want to get on the back of a cold bicycle to get to where they need to go.”Tags: bicycle, bicycles, Cabs, entrepreneur, Operators, passenger, Pedicab, Pedicab News, pedicab service, pedicabs, tourists, transportation