Licensing of pedicabs — Pedicabs

Licensing of pedicabs

Taste of Chicago and Lollapalooza festgoers won’t be able to ride in pedicabs down Michigan Avenue this summer to escape the thousands of people pouring out of Grant Park.

That’s because Michigan Avenue and State Street are off-limits to pedicabs from Oak Street to Congress Parkway due to the new city ordinance that went into effect this month.

“It remains to be seen how we’re going to be able to serve the public at these festivals where typically we are most helpful and utilized, ” said T.C. O’Rourke, a Chicago Pedicab Association board member.

Additionally, pedicabs no longer are allowed in the Loop from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

“We want to keep them rolling. We want passengers in the back. Losing downtown is a big hit for us, ” said Robert Tipton, owner of Chicago Rickshaw, operating in the city since 2008.

The ordinance also requires insurance and safety equipment as well as licensing for pedicabs and its drivers. The operational restrictions, chauffeur license requirement and the threat of a fine or impoundment have put a damper on business, pedicab owners and drivers said.

As a result, pedicab owners and operators said they noticed fewer drivers are renting and driving pedicabs on the streets and fewer passengers are seeking rides.

Now that he’s no longer allowed on Michigan Avenue or State Street, O’Rourke seeks riders at Navy Pier, Willis Tower and Soldier Field. But he said he’s not making as much money as when he was working on Michigan Avenue, and even lost fares because he had to raise prices because the trips took more time.

Safety also is a concern; instead of taking Michigan Avenue, pedicabs are riding down Columbus Drive, where cars drive faster and merge onto the road from parking garage ramps. Another issue: Columbus Drive often is closed during festivals or foot races on the weekend.

As a driver, Nicole Mangiaracina said she appreciates the street restrictions because she found it nerve-wracking to pass the wide-load pedicabs on the road. But she has used pedicabs to get to her destination quickly, explaining that she took a $30 pedicab ride from the Soldier Field parking lot to the stadium for a Bears-Cowboys game when it was freezing cold in December.

“It was really fun. He had a speaker system in it so he was playing fun, loud music, ” said Mangiaracina, 26, of Ukrainian Village.

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