by Jessica Sheridan Assoc. AIA LEED AP
This past week, a debate ignited regarding NYC Council’s proposed pedicab regulations, Intro. 75-A and Intro. 331-A. I may be in the minority, but after reading through the legislation, I feel that much of the regulation is reasonable and will provide a higher level of safety much-needed on busy NYC streets.
The first valid ruling is that drivers must own a license and attach a license plate to their pedicabs; licenses are to be renewed every two years. In order to obtain a license, drivers must complete a safety course, pass an exam administered by the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) with the Department of Transportation (DOT), be at least 18 years old, and pass any DCA-determined fitness requirements. Business owners must obtain a business license, renewed annually. Drivers must also have liability insurance that covers the “amount required by the vehicle and traffic law for vehicles carrying passengers.”
The local law also outlines a number of common-sense safety features to be incorporated into every pedicab vehicle. Included are: seating for up to three passengers; installation of water-resistant breaks; secondary or emergency breaks; battery-operated headlights and taillights; turn signals; seat belts; audible signaling devices; and reflectors on wheel spokes. To be integrated into pedicab designs (which must be motor-less and have maximum dimensions of 55-inches-wide by 10-feet-long) are timers that calculate ride rates, visible posting of pedicab business information, and visible rate-charge information. Pedicab operators can determine their own rates, but they must be posted. It is difficult to argue against any of the above decrees, in my opinion.
There are some debatable rulings included in the new law, however. Those who are opposed to the law target an item that gives the police the ability to restrict pedicabs from certain areas up to 14 days during “unusual heavy pedestrian or vehicular traffic.” In Midtown, from November 12 through January 7, there will be no limit to police restrictions due to the holidays. At first glance, this might seem unreasonable considering that the holidays are a time when pedicabs might profit the most, and the police may abuse this rule, but the text explains that unusual heavy traffic means during emergencies, fires, demonstrations, accidents, and parades. Of course I am against the misuse of the ruling, but the text itself does not pose a problem for me.
The one item of the legislation that I do disagree with, and is perhaps the most contentious, is the restriction of the number of pedicabs allowed in the city — 325, limiting the existing 500+. The pedicab business is new to the city. With time, it may prove to be a viable, more environmentally friendly alternative to taxicabs, car services, buses, and subways. I believe the city has a responsibility to legislate for people’s safety, and it is doing its job by instituting the new pedicab law, but it should not smother new forms of business that have the potential to thrive.