Pedicab article in NYTimes
Here is an article form the NY Times that explains the current issue.
In New York, Calls to Regulate Cabs Powered by Legs, Too
Wendy Scher was at the helm of a PartyBike on Saturday as a pedicab passed by in Times Square. The police have impounded several of the bikes. Photo by Dima Gavrysh for the New York Times
Article by Sewell Chan
Published: May 8, 2006
The Bloomberg administration has put forward a comprehensive proposal to regulate the city's decade-old pedicab industry for the first time, seeking to bring order to the human-powered for-hire vehicles that have become increasingly popular on Midtown streets, particularly during the warm months.
The proposal would confer legal recognition on the pedicabs, which are similar to rickshaws, except that they are pedaled instead of pulled. Nearly 300 pedicabs operate in the city, but until now there have been no formal safety standards, rules of operation or licensing requirements.
The regulations would also outlaw a popular round bicycle built for seven, a multiwheeled contraption in which six riders pedal while the seventh, the driver, steers from the rear. The Police Department has called the bike — sometimes marketed as a PartyBike or a Superbike and mostly used around Times Square — a hazard that chokes off traffic, and has impounded several of the vehicles.
"It's not the bike itself, it's how it's operated," James S. Muessig, owner of Superbike, which owns four of the vehicles, said yesterday. "We do it safely and responsibly."
The proposal, drafted by the Department of Consumer Affairs over several months and presented to the City Council on Friday, would require pedicab owners to pay a $125 licensing fee each year, and $70 for each additional cab, and to carry an insurance policy covering up to $1 million in liability.
Each pedicab would be limited to two adult passengers with one child 3 or younger. Each vehicle would have to have water-resistant hydraulic or mechanical brakes, emergency brakes, battery-powered headlights and taillights, turn lights, reflectors, side-mounted rear view mirrors and passenger seat belts. The pedicabs would be prohibited in parks, on bridges and in tunnels. Owners and drivers who violate the rules could have their licenses suspended or revoked, face fines of $200 to $4,000, and have their vehicles seized.
Some owners of taxis and horse-drawn carriages have called for a ban on pedicabs, arguing that they are unsafe and that a carriage license or taxicab medallion confers the exclusive right to respond to street hails. "Pedicabs are like illegal street peddlers, and they're stealing passengers away from taxi operators," said Joseph E. Giannetto, who represents owners of taxi fleets.
Councilman Leroy G. Comrie Jr., a Queens Democrat, has set a hearing on Thursday to discuss the proposal.
Pedicabs have been operating in New York since 1995. The drivers typically pay $200 a week to rent a cab and make up to $150 in a seven- or eight-hour shift. The cost of a cab is $3,600 to $7,000.
"We need to legitimize the industry so that cabbies stop blowing their horns at us and so people start taking us seriously as a form of clean-air transportation," said Robert E. Brennan, 36, an actor and freelance editor who began driving a pedicab three weeks ago.