Pedicab license Austin TX
As the pedicab industry gains momentum, the city puts on the brakes
By Olivia Watson
Pedicab drivers have to put up with a lot, including drunken debauchery and late hours. But what’s the worst part of the job? “The hills, ” says Al Pomper, an intern at Austin Monthly who’s been pedicabbing since February. He especially hates the incline on South Congress Avenue. “I drop passengers off at Embassy Suites, ” he says. “It just becomes too taxing past Riverside.”
College student and part-time driver Craig Garrison can relate. He once had to haul three robust men (estimated total weight: 900 pounds) up the hill on Brazos between Sixth and Seventh streets. “They kept saying, ‘Come on! We’re skinny!’ Eventually I had to get off and push it up. It was embarrassing, ” he says. At least he got a good tip for the effort.
With 341 permitted cabs and 955 authorized drivers, the city’s pedicab industry is booming. In fact, the number of pedicab companies has grown from five to 24 in just five years. The market has developed so much that in April the City Council passed new regulations.
Upgrades to the city’s pedicab ordinance, which was created in 1992, include requiring brakes on cab trailers, front and rear brake lights and fees to be negotiated before a ride.
The city also put a six-month moratorium on new permits, a change that most pedicab owners welcome. “I’d say at least nine out of 10 pedicabbers think there are too many pedicabs on the streets and would like to see, if not a reduction, some leveling off, ” says Stephen Smajstrla, owner of Heart of Texas Pedicab. Still, too much city involvement is a concern. “The fear is, whatever long-term system is implemented runs the risk of being an arcane, complicated thing that favors some people over others, ” adds Smajstrla.
As for becoming a pedicab driver, you still have to have a Texas driver’s license and pay for, among other things, a criminal background check and driver history record. And you must pass the pedicab chauffeur license test.
In spite of all these rules, drivers can make good money, earning upward of $300 a night. Surprisingly, given the amount of cash they carry late at night, pedicabbers rarely face dangerous situations. “There’s a lot of camaraderie among pedicab drivers. We try to look after each other, ” Pomper says. Now, about those hills.