Plans to Build my Own Pedicab
For the second time in two months, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation has thrown a hurdle in the path of an aspiring Downtown pedicab business.
In late August, the DOT shuttered Downtown hotel doorman Eric Green's one-man pedicab service because of permit issues. On Sept. 27, DOT officials recommended that the city's Board of Transportation Commissioners reject entrepreneur Mike Echols' proposal to launch MagiCab Express, which aims to operate up to 30 pedicabs near Staples Center. The board is expected to revisit the matter in early November.
In rejecting the effort last month, engineers with the DOT's special traffic division cited safety concerns.
"Pedicabs are not licensed by the city at this time, " said DOT spokesman Bruce Gillman in a statement. "Efforts are underway to license them. Once a program is in place, the DOT will be responsible for licensing pedicabs."
Transportation officials would not elaborate.
The situation has rankled some who note that pedicabs operate in other metropolitan areas, and those who thought they were following the rules. Echols, who obtained a business license in February, believed he was adhering to the city's existing protocol for launching a pedicab operation. Over the past several months he has met with transportation engineers and other city officials to perfect his business plan.
"It took weeks and weeks to get return phone calls from them, " he said. When Echols did receive a response, he says, he was told it would be his responsibility to come up with an operable plan. "It was not a cooperative effort."Fare Deal
In August, hotel doorman Green hit the Downtown streets with the neighborhood's first pedicab. Dubbed the "Green Machine, " the $6, 000 bike-carriage hybrid was immediately popular with hotel and bar customers, and was praised by neighborhood activists. Within two weeks, however, the DOT shut down Green's operation because, although he had a business license, he did not have the correct permit to operate a pedicab.
The idea to start a pedicab service Downtown came to Echols, 46, four years ago.
"I was going to a Lakers game and I was late, " said the South Park resident, who has worked as a business consultant in the hospitality industry. "I said, there has to be a quicker way to get to Staples Center from the parking lot."
He began digging into the pedicab industry, and soon learned that, although successful operations now run in cities such as Long Beach, San Francisco and New York, in other municipalities pedicab businesses were promptly shut down by city officials.
"I said, if we just work with the city in the beginning, we should be able to make it, " he recalled.
Echols found an obscure board order adopted by the city's Transportation Commission in 1986, detailing the vehicle equipment, insurance, driver standards and other regulations operators must follow to become eligible for pedicab licenses.
After joining with a silent partner and securing approximately $100, 000 to cover start-up costs, Echols obtained his business license and began an outreach campaign. He sent a business plan to the DOT, the Los Angeles Police Department and Ninth District City Councilwoman Jan Perry. He also met with the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council and the South Park Business Improvement District.
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