Editorial: Get the Pedicab Rolling

The Downtown pedicab, one of the more fun ideas to appear in the community recently, has been squelched, for who knows how long.

Published September 17, 2007 by LA Downtown News 

The Downtown pedicab, one of the more fun ideas to appear in the community recently, has been squelched, for who knows how long. We hope the city bureaucrats who made this move are working with the entrepreneur of this inventive device to get it back on the road as soon as possible.

 
 

Last month, Los Angeles Downtown News reported on Eric Green, a hotel doorman who, noticing how many people had to call expensive taxicabs for short trips in Downtown, hit upon the idea to ferry them in a mobile, rickshaw-like device. He spent $6,000 to create his so-called Green Machine, got a business license and insurance, and went out on the streets. Soon Downtowners were witnessing the delightful sight of a man in an open-air carriage pedaling people to bars or meetings. Green worked exclusively for tips.

Then, suddenly, Green was shut down by the Department of Transportation, because he needs specific permits. He said he hopes to resume riding by the end of the year.

The DOT may well be within its rights, and the department's foremost concern should be that the Green Machine is safe for its riders as well as Downtown pedestrians and drivers, and that all can share the road. But the department, and other city officials, should recognize the importance of streamlining this process and getting the pedicab up and rolling within weeks, not months. They certainly have the people and capabilities to work with Green and to make this process as easy as they want. We urge them to do so.

This is about more than just a man on a three-wheeled contraption – it is about the look, feel and utility of Downtown Los Angeles. The pedicab is the type of device that you stop and look at, maybe take a picture of or, if the driver is around, ask about. The Long Beach City Council recognized that when it approved 20 pedicabs for its streets, and there are pedicab operations in New York, Boston and San Francisco, among other cities. A pedicab is exactly the type of device that could lighten and humanize Downtown's notorious congestion.

Along with the fun aspect, a pedicab, or even a fleet of them, would be helpful. They would provide a viable alternative to having to call a cab for short jaunts in Downtown (something the taxicab industry probably would not like). This could be extremely valuable after the sun sets and people begin hitting the nightlife establishments. Pedicabs might help prevent people from having a drink, then driving a few blocks to another bar.

Local departments and government officials should be working toward more options like this, not fewer. Get the Green Machine rolling as soon and as safely as possible.