A major change to the way Minneapolis regulates pedicabs is coming before the Council on Friday morning.
The most important request the pedicab industry has made is for the City to lift the ban on pedicabs in downtown during rush hour. The Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition and Bicycle Advisory Committee both urged the Council to lift that ban, and the Council seems poised to do so (the ordinance as it passed committee removes the rush hour restriction).
However, during the public hearing, it became apparent that the new ordinance would negatively impact at least one of the current pedicab operators in town: Shottyz Pedicabs. The final vote at the Council was delayed from September 23rd to October 7th, to give more time for discussion. This allowed the BAC’s Enforcement, Encouragement and Education subcommittee the chance to weigh in, and they’ve adopted some recommendations for improving the ordinance before it passes. More below the fold.
Most pedicab operators in Minneapolis use Main Street pedicabs. But there’s also a long history of local bike-builders like Shottyz making fun, functional pedicabs here in town. The new regulations as originally proposed would’ve essentially banned this kind of creative self-reliance, and put at least this one operaor out of business.
In my opinion, the BAC’s recommendations have found the right balance, both better protecting people’s safety and allowing creativity and flexibility. Here’s a rundown:
The proposed language would require disc brakes on the rear wheels and a v-brake in the front. This is a problem for Shottyz, which uses dual v-brakes on their pedicab’s back wheel, powerful enough to lock it so it skids, but don’t use disc brakes. The BAC is recommending that this be changed to a performance-based standard copied from Miami: prove that you can bring your fully-loaded cab to a complete stop within 15 feet, from a speed of 10mph. While some cities have adopted a disc brake requirement, more cities use a performance-based standard. Interestingly, most pedicabs with two wheels in the back use disc brakes, while most with two wheels in the front use v-brakes.
The proposed ordinance caps pedicab widths at 55 inches. This seems to have been driven by a desire to limit the number of passengers per pedicab. The BAC’s recommendation is to address this more directly by limiting passengers to 3 (not counting lap-riding kids), and allowing the width to expand to 66 inches.
The proposed ordinance would define anyone giving free rides as a “pedicab business.” But sometimes people actually just give free rides to the public, as part of a parade or community festival. For example, here’s my boss, Council Member Cam Gordon, giving a pedicab ride during the Pride parade:
On the other hand, there are folks paid by Target to ride pedicabs in downtown that never accept passengers, just so they can use the moving advertising space. So the BAC recommended that the definition of pedicab business include people giving free rides ”accepting tips, or displaying advertising.”
Council Member Hofstede (Ward 3) has proposed upping the insurance requirement for pedicab companies from the current $300,000 (which this ordinance revision didn’t originally address) up to $3 million. The BAC, talking to the pedicab industry, found that $300,000 is much lower than what all operators currently carry, but $3 million is excessive. They’re recommending a more reasonable $1 million.
CM Hofstede has also proposed prohibiting pedicabs on the Hennepin/First Ave and Central/3rd Ave bridges over the Mississippi. The BAC has rightly rejected that idea, and urged the Council not to pass it.
Cam is poised to make all of these amendments aside from the bridge ban. I’m hoping they pass the Council, so that, in the BAC’s words, we can “preserve the diversity of current pedicab operators and allow others the opportunity to enter this emerging and exciting industry, while ensuring the safety of everyone involved – pedicab operators, their passengers, and all fellow road users.”
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