Pedicab rules NYC — Pedicabs

Pedicab rules NYC

Klingon65, flckr

Times are tough in New York’s pedicab industry. Drivers and owners of the bicycle taxis usually count on holiday season business to get them through the slow months of winter, but this year the recession and dismally wet weather weakened December business.

To further complicate the picture, new regulations governing the pedicab industry went into effect on Nov. 30, and it remains unclear how deeply these changes have affected business. The rules require that all pedicabs be inspected, insured, registered, and equipped with seatbelts and tail lights and that all pedicab drivers be licensed by the Department of Consumer Affairs.

Considering this is the low season for pedicabs, no one has much hard information on the impact of the new rules. A consensus appears to be merging, however, that things have changed.

David Pollack, executive director of the Committee for Taxi Safety and one of the strongest advocates for regulation, seems pleased with the results. "Pedicabs had been a big problem for the longest time, " he said. "Guys running red lights or going the wrong way down one way streets used to be a constant issue." Pollack reported that complaints from taxi drivers abut the bicycle cabs had decreased.

Complaints from pedestrians are down too, according to the office of City Councilmember Daniel Garodnick, who represents several of the neighborhoods most trafficked by pedicabs. Persistent nuisances like pedicabs on sidewalks or in no parking zones, and aggressive drivers harassing passers-by for a fare seem to have dropped off, according to the council member’s office.

Not all are satisfied however. The City Room blog reported in December that the 2009 holiday season was one of the worst on record for the pedicab businesses. "The economic crisis, a series of wet weekends and new regulations requiring licenses for pedicab drivers have created a perfect storm of misery in New York’s pedicab industry, " it said.

Cabs Without Drivers

While the weather and the economy have had an effect, some in the industry think the regulations have made the situation worse - at least for now. For one thing, the number of people who have applied for pedicab licenses is far lower than the number of pedicabs in the city. According to the city's Department of Consumer Affairs, there are currently 943 registered pedicabs and 490 licensed drivers. For pedicab owners, many of whom own small fleets of the vehicles, this means massive amounts of lost revenue from rentals as their cabs sit idle.

Because the city did not put a cap on the number of licenses that can be awarded it is expected that the number of licensed pedicab drivers will eventually reach or exceed the number of registered pedicabs. When that happens, Zukowski expects things to pick up.

Whether or not some businesses will be able to last that long, though, is uncertain. January to March is the low season for pedicab rentals, and owners depend on a fat holiday to make it through that dry period. This year there were not enough pedicab drivers to fill the seats, and owners have been left struggling to find ways to get by.

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