Seattle Anniversary Pedicab Ride Turns Fatal

August 12, 2008

A Seattle accident that killed a visitor from Connecticut celebrating his 25th anniversary has drawn attention to the lack of regulations governing pedicabs, some of which have been criticized for reckless pedaling.

Peter Dzioba, 60, a father of four from Watertown, Conn., died in late July when a pedicab ran a red light at a downtown intersection, glanced off a scooter and collided with a minivan.

Dzioba, riding with his wife in the three-wheeled carrier, was thrown beneath the van and crushed. His wife and the 23-year-old pedicab driver were injured, but are expected to recover.

The couple had just arrived for a cruise to Alaska to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary.

Witnesses said the 23-year-old driver was heading down a hill that was too steep for the 175-pound vehicle and was unable to stop.

Police also are investigating the possibility of equipment failure. No arrest has been made or traffic citations issued.

To pedal in Seattle — where pedicabs are often seen carrying sports fans through heavy traffic to Seahawks and Mariners games — a pedicab operator is only required to obtain a business license.

“We don’t regulate them,” municipal spokeswoman Kathy Sugiyama said. “I’m sure we may be looking at it because of this tragedy.”

Police say pedicab accidents are rare, and traffic safety officials say Dzioba’s death may be one of the first involving a pedicab in the state.

“Since they’ve come to Seattle, this is really the first incident — and certainly the first fatality — connected to pedicabs,” police Officer Mark A. Jamieson said. “It hasn’t been on our radar.”

The pedicab that crashed was owned by Cascadia Cabs of Bellingham, which has about 46 insured vehicles in Portland and Eugene, Ore., and Vancouver, British Columbia, and leases vehicles to contractors for eight-hour shifts.

Company owner Ryan Hashagen says Cascadia will be closed in Seattle until he concludes his own investigation. The company remains in operation in the other three cities.

In Seattle, the company’s 17 pedicabs pick up about 60,000 passengers a year.

Orlando, Fla., and San Diego are among a handful of cities across the U.S. that regulate pedicabs by requiring drivers to obtain special operating licenses, and in some cases to undergo background checks.

Other cities, including Phoenix and New York, have debated requiring liability insurance.

Although Seattle doesn’t require pedicab inspections, Hashagen said his drivers undergo safety training and the company’s cabs are all checked regularly. He said the accident was not related to an equipment failure.

Cascadia prohibits its drivers from riding down steep hills. Bicycle messengers and cycling enthusiasts said the grade of the hill where the crash occurred borders on dangerous.

“On a regular bike, stopping power down a hill can be pretty hard sometimes,” said bike messenger David Audino, “but going down a grade that steep is just retarded.”

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