Thursday, January 8, 2009

Pedicab Crackdown?

I've driven the Pedicab a few times - it's a tough, tough hustle. It's a similar gig as driving a regular cab - you rent the cab for x amount a day, and make what you keep. And just like a cab, if you get a ticket, that's yours. In the article it's implied that a $200 ticket isn't enough of a deterrent. Really - that's at least a good day's profit for a driver. You go schlep 500 pounds of tourist around in a rickshaw for 10 hours for free and tell me it's not a deterrent.

I've only taken one out if there's a pedicab tour already lined up for me that covers the cost of renting the thing. The owner (if he's responsible) covers insurance and repairs. If the weather is awful (super hot, raining), then you get more work, so you're always out driving in awful weather. Physically, it's not so bad - kind of tough on the legs, but there's a lot of gears and you can take it easy if you have to, as long as you don't have to go up any inclines. It kind of resembles driving the truck of bicycles.

Pedicabs are in a weird no-man's land between bicycles and cars. The don't break traffic laws with the casualness of most bicyclists in New York, but they sure don't follow them to the letter. They were unregulated for a while, until the city finally came up with a licensing scheme. Still, they're much, much less regulated than the horse drawn carriages or regular taxicabs - most notably on pricing, which is 100% negotiable (the carriages and taxis both have set pricing). Riding them is mostly a novelty thing - they aren't really that great for getting from point A to point B in a timely and economical manner. They cost about 3x as much as a similar taxi ride, and unless traffic is really, really bad, are going to be about the same speed or slower.

Working in the business, you hear a lot of rumors about various tensions and issues between different people, different businesses. Some people told me the Horse Drawn Carriage guys hated the pedicabs because they took their Central Park business, and were behind the push to crack down on them. Others told me it was the taxi drivers that hated them, and were behind the push. Others told me it was the Central Park Conservancy. It's probably some combination of these, and other, factors. Still, 2609 tickets? That about 9 tickets per pedicab per year. I ride my bike with impunity all over town, and have only gotten 2 tickets in my life, both of which were thrown out of court.


  1. You need a driver's license to apply for a pedicab license??? Next you'll need a commercial license (big truck) to drive a moped!

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