Second Ward, Minneapolis

This is the public policy forum of Minneapolis Second Ward (Green) City Council Member Cam Gordon and his staff. We use this space to talk about some of what Cam’s working on, explain his positions, and share a little of what life in City Hall is like. Please feel free to comment on posts, within certain ground rules. See our disclaimer, including ground rules, here: http://secondward.blogspot.com/2006/05/disclaimer.html#links

Monday, September 12, 2011

Pedicabs

As you can read here, there is a move afoot to improve the Pedicab ordinance in Minneapolis. A public hearing on this proposed ordinance will be held on September 12th, at the Regulatory Energy and Environment committee.

The last such tweak was just a few years ago. It's a great example of how a change in the rules can make it possible for a new type of business to flourish - that last ordinance revision sparked an explosion of pedicabs in Minneapolis, especially in downtown.

There are a few changes being requested both by City regulatory staff and by pedicab owners and operators, including making operators (rather than owners) responsible for traffic code violations, improving the safety requirements for the pedicabs themselves, and more.

To my mind, however, the most important ask from the pedicab owners and operators is for the City to lift the prohibition on pedicabs in downtown during rush hour. The Minnneapolis Bicycle Advisory Committee has formally supported this idea, for a number of reasons. Some quotes from their letter to Council Members:



"The BAC’s position is that pedicabs should be subject to the same basic rules of the road as ordinary bicycles. The City is currently in the extraordinary position of holding pedicabs to a different and more stringent standard than both bicycles and taxicabs. All of the concerns we heard expressed by Licensing staff – the impact of slow-moving pedicabs on congestion during peak periods and concerns about the safety of pedicab operators and customers – can equally apply to standard bicyclists.

While both of these concerns are legitimate, on reflection neither is particularly compelling. In terms of congestion, we would note that tricycles, bike trailers, and other human-powered vehicles larger than the standard bicycle are allowed in downtown at any time, as are the City-sponsored Nice Ride bicycles that tend to be ridden more slowly than a standard bicycle. The safety concern is similarly unpersuasive, as bicyclists are and should be allowed on even the busiest of downtown streets during rush hour. We would argue that, because the speed differential between pedicabs and other traffic is lower during peak periods, both concerns are if anything less striking during rush hour than during the rest of the day, and much less than during some periods, like bar close, when we currently allow pedicabs.

Our position is not just based on doubts about the above concerns, but the many benefits we believe that allowing pedicabs in downtown during peak hours could bring. Downtown is a tourist destination, and the peak hours (also often known as “happy hours”) are not exempt. We view pedicabs as a tourism amenity, benefitting from and building Minneapolis’ reputation as the premier bicycle city in the US. The number of riders available during peak hours could allow pedicab operators to be more successful, expanding and professionalizing their services. And the data show that the more bicycles on the street for whatever reason – commuters, recreational riders, pedicabs, and others – the more drivers are aware of our presence and the safer each individual rider tends to be."

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