Pedicabs in Fort Lauderdale
FORT LAUDERDALE — The number of rickshaws that offer rides downtown and along the beach could more than triple.
A fleet of 20 of the tricycle cabs currently operate in the city, but businesses have applied to add as many as 50 more. Police administrators are concerned about traffic safety, and city officials are scrambling to improve safety regulations as a result.
The companies say the rides are increasingly popular among tourists as a way to see the area and get around without hailing a taxi or renting a car. They're asking to start service as early as 7 a.m. and run as late as 4 a.m. seven days a week.
"Our guys are good-will ambassadors for Fort Lauderdale, " said Jay Alexander, owner of Ocean View Rickshaw, "People get off our bikes with a smile on their face, and so many say it's the best thing they've done in Fort Lauderdale."
Ocean View, the city's sole existing rickshaw firm, has applied to add 30 cabs to its 20-vehicle fleet, while Orient Express Rickshaws wants to launch service in Fort Lauderdale with up to 20 cabs.
When the applications arrived on their agenda last week, city commissioners were stunned to learn that the safety standards had not been updated since the late 1980s, not even after a serious accident on New Year's Day 2008. They've delayed a decision on the applications for at least a month while new rules are written.
The city doesn't require safety features such as lights, turn signals, rearview mirrors and seat belts. The current barebones requirements say operators must have a driver's license and can't impede traffic. Companies must carry liability insurance of $100, 000 per accident.
The city is now discussing whether to require as much as $1 million in insurance coverage. Other potential requirements are safety features like seat belts, annual inspections of the pedicabs and the posting of rate and ownership information in the vehicle.
Fort Lauderdale's Police Department, in a memo given to city commissioners, said more rickshaws will increase competition with cars for road space and should be barred from congested streets.
One suggestion is to limit the number of additional cabs to 12, bringing the total on the street to 32 rather than the 70 sought by the industry.
Julie Perry said the city must do more to ensure safety, particularly considering what happened to her three years ago.
She and her friend, Susan Finnerty, had decided to top off their celebrations of the start of 2008 with a rickshaw ride from the beach up Las Olas Boulevard. The pedicab was crossing Las Olas' bridge when a car slammed into the rear and sped off.
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