Benefits of pedicabs — Pedicabs

Benefits of pedicabs

Pedicab driver T.C. O’Rourke and others who make their living on the tricycle taxis just lost access to lucrative stretches of Michigan Avenue, State Street and, during rush hours, the Loop. (Nancy Stone, Chicago Tribune)

T.C. O'Rourke makes his living pedaling people around Chicago in a tricycle taxi. But thanks to City Hall, he might soon be out of business.

As of Saturday, it's illegal for pedicab drivers to use busy downtown stretches of Michigan Avenue and State Street — where O'Rourke says 80 percent of his business is. The ban means fewer customers and longer rides.

"There was one person that I ended up making a 12-block trip instead of a five-block trip, just because I had to avoid Michigan, " said O'Rourke, of Logan Square. "Nobody wants to ride down alleys and side streets to get to where they're going when they're visiting Chicago."

Banning pedicabs from the city's most sought-after streets is part of a sweeping ordinance aimed at controlling and containing this budding industry. The ordinance also makes it illegal for pedicabs to travel in the Loop during weekday rush hours, and it limits the number of available pedicab licenses to 200.

This comes at the same time the city is pouring millions of dollars into the Divvy bike-sharing program. Peddling two wheels downtown: no problem. Peddling three wheels: illegal.

When Chicago aldermen talk about pedicabs, it sounds like they're referring to rogue mercenaries overtaking the city. Aldermen complain that they're operating "without licensing." That fares are based on driver and passenger agreement instead of a schedule set by City Hall. Downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly, 42nd, said of the lack of pedicab regulation: "Literally, it's the Wild West."

Let's be real: We're talking about consenting adults riding in an oversized tricycle, traveling about 12 mph — often in the city's bike lanes.

It's unclear what aldermen are really worried about: being run over by a tricycle or the fact they're not the ones peddling.

Pedicab driver T.C. O’Rourke and others who make their living on the tricycle taxis just lost access to lucrative stretches of Michigan Avenue, State Street and, during rush hours, the Loop.

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