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Posts from the "Pedicabs" Category

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Do Pedicabs Belong in Bike Lanes?

pedicab.jpgA pedicab (sort of) makes use of the Broadway bike lane.
Photo: Brad Aaron

Last week's collision between a pedicab and a yellow taxi in Brooklyn was followed by a renewed, or at least better publicized, interest from Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council in enforcing long-awaited pedicab industry standards.

The rules, initiated by pedicab companies themselves, are intended to protect passengers, pedicab drivers and the general public through, among other measures, the issuance of operator licenses and requirements related to vehicle safety. The City Council adopted the regulations in 2007, but enforcement lagged after a protracted legal battle between the city and the industry over a now-abandoned cap on pedicab licenses. 

On Tuesday, the Post ran an editorial opposing one aspect of the laws, which bar "pest-i-cabs" (ha, get it?) from bike lanes.

"[T]he bike-lane prohibition seems a little odd," Post editors wrote. "Mayor Mike's recent green-themed streetscaping means that such lanes occupy nearly half of many blocks in Midtown -- surely there's enough room for pedicabs on them."

The New York City Pedicab Owners' Association agrees.

"The NYCPOA officially is in favor of removing the restriction on pedicabs operating in bike lanes and actually believes it is safer for pedicabs to operate in bike lanes when they are available," spokesman Chad Marlow told Streetsblog. Marlow added, however, that the trade group supports keeping pedicabs out of tunnels and off bridges, even when the bridge has a bike lane -- as the regs dictate.  

What do you think? Should bike lanes be open to pedal-powered commercial traffic, including pedicabs -- or, for that matter, cargocycles -- or should they be reserved for citizen cyclists? 

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For the Best in Transportainment, Try a Pedicab

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This week's Time Out New York offers advice on the best ways to navigate the city (all of them sans private automobile). In addition to tips on cheating the MTA out of a subway fare and knowing when the bus is better, TONY explains that pedicabs aren't just for tourists.

“I’ll get you anywhere in midtown in under ten minutes, or I’ll pay you,” says Gregg Zukowski, driver and owner of pedicab company Revolution Rickshaws. “For example, Grand Central to Penn Station takes me seven minutes.” What if there’s gridlock? “Then it might take eight,” he brags.

“It’s ‘transportainment,’” says New York Pedicab Association president Peter Meitzler. “It’s cheaper than a limo but just as much personal attention. I like to think of it as a pedal-powered limo service.”

Just don’t breathe too deeply -- think about all those fumes pedi passengers must inhale as they zip around idling cars. “I know, I know,” sighs Zukowski. “It’s a bitch. I’m trying to get those automobiles banned.”

Photo: ultrahi/Flickr

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Pedicab Law Put on Hold

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Attorneys representing the pedicab industry have succeeded in getting a temporary reprieve from restrictions adopted by the City Council earlier this year, including a cap on the allowed number of operators and a ban on electrically-assisted rigs, until their lawsuit against the city can be heard in court.

From a September 19 Public Advocacy Group press release:

Attorneys for the New York City Pedicab Owners’ Association (“NYCPOA”) and New York City’s Corporation Counsel agreed today to temporarily suspend implementation of Local Law 19-2007 (the “Pedicab Law”) and the Department of Consumer Affairs’ (“DCA”) pedicab regulations until a full hearing on the NYCPOA’s lawsuit against the DCA and City of New York can be heard by a New York County Supreme Court Justice.

Speaking on behalf of the NYCPOA, Chad Marlow of The Public Advocacy Group LLC, whose firm serves as NYCPOA’s General Counsel, said “we are very pleased that Corporation Counsel has agreed to a pause in the implementation of thePedicab Law and regulations until a court can properly determine DCA’s responsibilities under the law and whether it has failed to meet those responsibilities.”  NYCPOA President Peter Meitzler added, “the New York City pedicab industry has been thrown a lifeline, albeit a temporary one.  For now, I am grateful that the hundreds of New Yorkers who earn their livings in thepedicab industry will still have a business to run or a job to go to tomorrow.”

Marlow, who is president of the Public Advocacy Group, was recently named one of the "40 Under 40" -- a list of NYC's rising young political stars -- by City Hall News (scroll).

Photo: NYCArthur/Flickr

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Pedicabs Protest New Regulations

Pedicabs took to the streets yesterday to protest the City's new regulations on New York's greenest for-hire transportation industry. In a press release, The Green Transport Association says that City Council Speaker Christine Quinn "dealt pedicabs a crushing blow capping our number at 325 city-wide" -- a reported 35 percent reduction in the pedicab workforce:

Pedicabs are New York's only zero-emission livery service. There has never been a fatality on a pedicab in the industry's twelve unregulated years. Pedicabs pose no threat to the value of yellow cab medallions. We demand that the city council amend its regulation law to remove the cap and bans on pedicabs. Our leaders must encourage, not crush solutions to our fossil fuel dependency.

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In the News:

  • Pedicabs Roll Down Broadway, Picking Up Tourists And Pissing Off Cabbies (NYPress)
  • Pedicab Owners Protest Pending Regulation (City Room)
  • Pedicab Drivers Ride in Protest (AMNY)
  • Pedicab News

Photos: NYCArthur/Flickr

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Council Overrides Pedicab Veto

NY1 is reporting that the City Council has voted to override Mayor Bloomberg's veto of its pedicab bill.

The pedicab bill caps the number of cabs at 325 and also adds new safety and insurance requirements. The mayor vetoed the bill after meeting with pedicab drivers who were concerned about losing their jobs.

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Will City Council Override Mayor’s Pedicab-Bill Veto?

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Anticipating a vote in the City Council this afternoon to override the mayor's veto of Intro 331-A, a bill to regulate pedicabs, a group of pedicab operators was demonstrating outside the American Museum of Natural History after Bloomberg's big Earth Day speech.

Handing out leaflets with the numbers of swing councilmembers like Daniel Garodnick, the pedicabbers came up to members of the press leaving the museum and asked for help with media coverage of their issue. Periodically the demonstrators chanted: "We're not in the way, we are the way!"

Members of the group said they fit perfectly with the sustainability plan the mayor had just outlined inside.

"I am zero emissions, that's what I do," said Jesse White, a pedicabber who was leading chants. "Intro 331-A will shut us down."

Photo: Sarah Goodyear 

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Pedi Politics

On Monday, April 23, the day after Earth Day and the Mayor's Long-Term Sustainability speech, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn plans to hold a decisive vote on Intro. 331-A, a law limiting and restricting pedicabs. Mayor Bloomberg vetoed the bill but rather than going back and trying to improve the legislation by, say, simply increasing the cap on the number of pedicab licenses, Quinn has been twisting Council members arms to override the Mayor's veto.

It looks like she has the votes. The Speaker has managed to convince some of City Council's most progressive and pro-environment members to go along with her. On NY Turf's PediCouncil map shows David Yassky, Bill de Blasio, Daniel Garodnick and Diana Reyna all on-board with Quinn's veto override.

What is Quinn's leverage?

"May is budget month," says pedicab industry representative Chad Marlow of the Public Advocacy Group. "Going along with the Speaker's program ensures that 'member items' will be approved" --  the funding requests that Council members submit for special projects in their districts.

And why has Quinn decided to pick this fight with New York City's small but growing pedicab industry? "The interests of the taxi, hotel and theater industries have been given more weight than the interests of the pedicabs, environmental and transportation groups," says Marlow.

More info: 

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Pedicab Limits: Let the Free Market Decide

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This NY Sun editorial weighs in on the proposed pedicab restrictions:

Imagine if the long-distance bus industry were allowed to set a limit on the number of airline flights in and out of New York City, or if the beer industry were allowed to place a cap on the number of bottles of wine that could be sold in the city's restaurants and liquor stores. Something just as outrageous is afoot in the New York City Council, where the speaker, Christine Quinn, is, at the behest of the gasoline-powered taxicab lobby, backing legislation that would impose a limit on the number of pedal-powered pedicabs serving New Yorkers.

In the 1920s the city had as many as 21,000 taxi drivers. A 1937 law set a limit on the license that eventually settled at 11,787, and even adding a small number of licenses to accommodate the city's population growth has always been a huge political fight. The result is that taxis are scarce at rush hours, in the rain, on New Year's Eve, and in the boroughs outside Manhattan. In limiting pedicabs, the City Council would repeat the medallion mistake, ensuring scarcity and creating a new class of medallion holders with an interest that runs counter to that of consumers.

Photo: kerfuffle & zeitgeist/Flickr
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Quinn’s Pedicab Problem: Personal or Political?



City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is reportedly pressuring -- some might say coercing -- council members into backing her effort to override of Mayor Bloomberg's veto of stringent pedicab restrictions. Tony Avella of Queens talked to the Sun about Quinn's anti-pedicab campaign among council members.

Mr. Avella said his colleagues are following Ms. Quinn's wishes because her support is essential when trying to introduce legislation or secure funding for projects in a member's district. "The power of the speaker is incredible when used in this type of situation," he said. "And that's a situation that really has to change. We talk about three men in a room in Albany. Well, the City Council is getting just as bad."

Of course political blackmail among elected officials is nothing new. What's noteworthy here is that, according to the Sun:

A lobbyist at Bolton-St. Johns, Inc, a group hired by the Committee for Taxi Safety to lobby the council, Emily Giske, is considered by many to be close to the speaker. She and Ms. Quinn lived, and may still live, in the same apartment building on West 24th Street, according to a recent address listing.

After Ms. Quinn, who is a lesbian, gave her first speech as speaker last year, Ms. Giske told a weekly newspaper of Lower Manhattan, Downtown Express: "As a lesbian and as a Democrat, I've never been more proud of anything in my life."

Regardless of any possible personal link between Quinn and Giske, pedicab industry founder and spokesman George Bliss suspects the speaker's motives are patently political.

"She wants to be mayor, she needs their money," Mr. Bliss said, referring to Ms. Quinn. "It is clear there is a quid pro quo between the speaker and the taxi lobby."

Could Quinn, a Democrat, be short-sighted enough to lobby against clean transportation for New York City at a time when the Republican she hopes to succeed is speaking -- if not always acting -- on reducing emissions? Not according to a Quinn spokeswoman, who claims that no one on the council "was urged or pressured to vote one way or another on the pedicab bill."

For his part, David Pollack, executive director of the Committee for Taxi Safety ("Helping NYC's Safest Drivers"), says pedicab regulations would "keep the bicycle taxis from clogging midtown Manhattan." Pollack receives "daily complaints about reckless pedicab drivers," the article says.

A vote on the pedicab regs is set for April 23.

Photo: nycbone via Flickr 

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City Council Set To Vote on Pedicabs Today

onNYTurf reports:

What started as a very positive process to bring much desired regulation to the growing pedicab industry has been completely turned on its head, and this afternoon city council is scheduled to vote on a bill that has become so twisted that the bill's sponsor and a co-sponsor have taken their names off of it.

At the top of the list of bad policy in this bill is a citywide cap of 325 pedicabs, the right of the police to ban pedicabs from any street for 14 days at will, and all of Midtown for the seven weeks of the holiday period. This means that pedicabs may be banned from Midtown during Thanksgiving and Christmas, right when they are most useful. There are a number of other terrible additions that have been made to this bill.

A media advisory from Pedicabnews has the details on Intro. 331-A:

  • Police may designate any streets as "congested" and ban pedicabs from those streets for two week intervals. There is no limit on the number of streets that can be treated this way or how many times the two-week ban can be renewed.
  • Any Community Board can request that pedicabs be banned from their streets permanently. This request will be considered by NYC DOT and the NYPD.
  • Police can bar pedicabs from midtown entirely, throughout the two months of the valuable Christmas season.
  • Travel on bridges and bike lanes is banned, so there can be no inter-borough connection.

Read more...