Bike cabs to rally for a Midtown pedi-cure

Pedicab drivers are expected to ride to City Hall this afternoon to call attention to closed-door negotiations between the Bloomberg administration and the City Council to regulate their industry.

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Published February 13, 2007 by Metro New York
By Amy Zimmer 

Rickshaw law decided behind closed doors, they say

MANHATTAN, NY — Pedicab drivers are expected to ride to City Hall this afternoon to call attention to closed-door negotiations between the Bloomberg administration and the City Council to regulate their industry.

The City Council is working to meld two proposed bills into one, and though it hasn’t yet released a new draft, the New York City Pedicab Owners’ Association — whose representatives have been advising on such legislation —- is outraged at two items they believe will be part of it. One is a possible cap on the number of pedicabs, paring down roughly 500 cabs to 300. The other is a ban on electric motors used to assist pedaling.

“We’re in favor of regulation,” explained NYCPOA lobbyist Chad Marlow, who was briefed last week on the private negotiations. “We’re the ones who brought it up. From a pedicab’s point of view, we have owners and drivers who are responsible and others who are not. We want those off the road. But we want a good bill.”

Pedicabs block access to lobbies, according to the Hotel Association of New York City. The League of American Theaters and Producers complain pedicabs congregate in “no standing” zones in front of theaters, blocking access to private cars and taxis. They called for a Midtown pedicab ban — something Speaker Christine Quinn called for in 2005.

“What we want is something that addresses the problem of bunching up,” Marlow added. “A cap doesn’t address that. [The city] seems more interested in a symbolic solution than an actual one.”

Marlow also criticized the ban on electric-assisted power, explaining that the engine used by BicyTaxi NYC, for instance, uses roughly half the power of a hairdryer. The 250-watt motor helps drivers with the heavy fiberglass protective shell.

“They like to depict themselves as saints of alternative transportation, but [some] are motorized,” said Michael Woloz, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, which represents 3,500 medallion cabs. “I don’t care if they’re bicycle vehicles or whatever. They’re taking up space, they’re dangerous and they flout the rules of the road.”

Woloz and Marlow agree on one thing left out of Council talks: having the Department of Transportation create designated pick-up spots for pedicabs.

According to DOT spokeswoman Kay Sarlin, “We’re working to reduce congestion, and setting aside space for stands on crowded Midtown streets would have the opposite effect.”