N.Y. City Puts Foot Down on Unregulated Pedicab Industry

April 24, 2007

New York City’s hordes of unregulated bicycle taxis will have to meet licensing, insurance and safety standards, and only 325 will be allowed to operate at one time, thanks to a City Council override of a mayoral veto this week.

The so-called pedicabs, which look like giant tricycles with passenger carriages in the back, have increasingly become popular among tourists around Central Park and other landmarks, and some residents who prefer to beat traffic jams by weaving through all the cars.

The city estimates it has between 300 and 400 pedicabs operating today.

The bill to regulate the pedicab industry was moments from being signed into law last month when Mayor Michael Bloomberg had second thoughts during the bill-signing ceremony. A group of pedicab drivers and their supporters stood up and told him the bill was unfair, particularly because it caps the number of bicycle taxis allowed on city streets at 325.

He deferred any decision that day and later vetoed the measure, saying 500 was a more appropriate limit. Despite his objections, the City Council voted 37-6 to override the veto, so the package of regulations is set to become law and take effect in about five months.

“This legislation is designed to make pedicabs safer for passengers and drivers, and less disruptive to small businesses, pedestrians, and other vehicles,” City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said. She added that the cap of 325 will “allow the industry to thrive, while alleviating congestion in the parts of the city most frequented by pedicabs.”

The law’s regulatory framework includes licensing and insurance requirements and stipulates that each pedicab must post its formula for calculating fares.

Among the supporters of the regulation bill are civic leaders from the Broadway theater district around Times Square, who said that pedicabs were clogging the streets around the theaters after shows let out, making it difficult to walk and drive in the area.

Quinn also noted that every other pay-per-ride industry in New York City is regulated, like horse-drawn carriages, yellow cabs and black cars.

Throughout the hearing process in the City Council, many in the pedicab industry said they welcomed some sort of regulation, like licensing and safety requirements, to weed out the drivers that they said are reckless and pose risks to the industry.

But many drivers say the cap could cause them to lose their jobs.

“A ‘cap’ on the number of vehicles, especially the low one chosen, will discourage the healthy growth of this industry throughout the five boroughs,” opponents said in a statement Monday.

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