Attack on Pedicabs Spreads to Chicago

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has said that he wants his city to become the most bike-friendly hub in the country. But his stance toward pedicabs is incredibly unfriendly, to say the least.
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We want to make it as hard as possible for you to make a living.

That's essentially what a handful of cities across the U.S. are telling pedicab drivers.

Onerous regulations and restrictions are cutting off pedicab owners and operators as they pursue an active lifestyle and livelihood, despite the fact that pedicabs are a proven, green transportation alternative.

In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has said that he wants his city to become the most bike-friendly hub in the country. But his stance toward pedicabs is incredibly unfriendly, to say the least.

Chicago City Council recently enacted a far-reaching set of pedicab regulations this summer, joining the ranks of cities such as New Orleans, San Francisco and New York City.

In these cities, pedicab drivers are limited on numerous fronts: where they can drive, how they get paid for their services, how many drivers are allowed on the road and more.

In New Orleans, city regulations limit pedicab fares for the first six blocks of any ride to no more than $5 per passenger, regardless of outside factors such as weather, delays in traffic and popularity of the route.

In San Francisco, pedicabs have to ask the Chief of Police for permission to drive in any given area. Pedicab owners and operators have to submit to the chief a proposed route; the chief then reviews the proposal and makes a decision on whether the route is acceptable using "sound and reasonable discretion."

In New York City, the government places a limit on the number of pedicab licenses: There can be no more than 850 registration plates at a time, and no more than 30 plates may be issued to any one pedicab company at once.

But Chicago's onerous regulations may take the cake.

The city's new ordinance limits the number of pedicab licenses to 200, though the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection has the ability to raise that number later if he or she sees fit.

The ordinance also creates an incredible barrier to entry -- pedicab operators have to have a state-issued driver's license for one year before they can be granted a pedicab permit.

Chicago's rules also forbid pedicabs from operating in some of the busiest, most tourist-heavy spots in the city: Michigan Avenue and State Street from Congress Avenue up to Oak Street.

Pedicabs also are no longer able to operate downtown between 7-9 a.m. and 4-6 p.m.

These regulations may crush pedicabbers like Robert Tipton, who has owned Chicago Rickshaw since 2008.

"We may be forced to close our doors here," Tipton said. "I don't want to have to tell my drivers they're out of a job. I don't want to tell customers we're no longer able to provide a service. But that's what this ordinance will force me to do. The city taxes and regulates pedicabs the same as taxis, but then wants to limit where we can go."

Taxis, horse-drawn carriages, bicycles and even non-commercial pedicabs can all operate where the new ordinance now restricts commercial pedicabs. And the city has no evidence that pedicabs pose any special threat that justifies singling them out for exclusion.

This is unfair. These pedicab drivers and business owners are hardworking men and women who are providing an environmentally conscious service people want. City officials need to get out of the way.

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