At today’s City Council meeting, an ordinance regulating pedicabbers – and banning them from downtown streets – passed with almost no opposition. Operators say that the new rules will put them out of business, since they’ll be prohibited from operating in the Loop during rush hours, as well as Michigan and State, between Oak and Congress, at all times. The law, which Mayor Rahm Emanuel praised, goes into effect on June 7.
Alderman Tom Tunney (44th), whose ward includes Wrigley Field, sponsored the legislation. Alderman Brendan Reilly (42nd) pushed for including the geographic restrictions after downtown business and neighborhood groups complained to him about what they perceive to be a pedicab menace.
In addition to the Loop ban, pedicabbers will be required to obtain a $250 annual license and a $25 vehicle decal. Pedicabs will have to be equipped with seatbelts and meet other safety standards. Operators will need to carry liability insurance and post their fare structure on their vehicle, instead of negotiating the price before or after a ride. The number of operators in the city will be capped at 200.
At a yesterday before the city’s licensing and transportation committees, Alderman Rey Colón (35th), not a committee member, noted the city has not done traffic studies indicating that pedicabs cause downtown traffic problems, so the decision to ban them is “subjective.” A Chicago Department of Transportation rep said CDOT feels the geographic restrictions are unnecessary.
Despite passionate testimony from some 20 operators and advocates, the ordinance passed in committee, opposed only by Alderman Ariel Reboyras, who called it a job killer, and Reilly, who wanted to see a rush hour ban in River North as well. Former CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein tweeted his dismay at the news:
Ugh @StreetsblogNet: Chicago is poised to ban pedicabs inside the loop, forcing them out of business @streetsblogchi
— gabe klein (@gabe_klein)
Early this afternoon, the full council passed the ordinance with no discussion or voice vote. Alderman Danny Solis (25th) was the only no vote, according to spokeswoman Stacy Raker. “The ordinance will impose harsh restrictions on pedicab operators, ” she said. “The alderman believes that we need to take another look at what these restrictions will do to the pedicab industry which is, of course, a green form of transportation.”
After the vote, Emanuel told the Sun-Times the ordinance is a step forward for the city. “We now have a regulatory architecture that provides some safety and a clear set of rules as it relates to safety so riders have that knowledge… If there’s other things we need to do as it relates to the industry, we’ll come back.”
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