Pedicabs - Outcome
This morning, the Council voted on a comprehensive change to the licensing requirements for pedicabs. I support many of these changes, especially the lifting of the rush hour ban in downtown.
But in the end I could not vote for it. I was joined in voting "no" by Council Member Lilligren. I was able to make several important changes that will decrease the ordinance's negative impacts - allowing cabs up to 66 inches in width (up from the original proposal of 55 inches), allowing people to give free rides as long as they don't take tips or display advertising, and referring to state law to determine which past felonies should disqualify folks from operating pedicabs (rather than including all felonies).
My chief objection to the ordinance is that, at the urging of our staff, it includes a requirement for a specific set of braking systems for pedicabs. I continue to believe that this is a completely unnecessary, unwarranted interference in the decisions of small pedicab businesses in Minneapolis. My approach was to adopt a stringent stopping standard for all pedicabs, no matter their braking system: prove the vehicle can come to a stop within 15 feet from a speed of 10 miles per hour. If an operator can meet this standard and prove that their vehicle can come to a stop, why should the City care what braking system they use?
I was joined in taking this position by the Bicycle Advisory Committee's Enforcement, Encouragement and Education subcommittee. They took the time to meet with pedicab operators and City staff to discuss the proposed ordinance, and came to an unambiguous position against adopting a requirement for certain braking systems. These are the folks the City has asked to be our subject-matter experts on issues relating to bicycling - and are some of the only folks we've talked to with personal experience in different bicycle braking systems - and the Council ignored them.
In committee, when questioned on this, staff asserted that most cities have adopted specific braking system requirements. But when staff conducted an in-depth review of the pedicab ordinances in the 50 largest US cities, he found three times as many cities do not have this requirement (23) than do (7). Examples of cities that don’t: Portland, Milwaukee, Denver, San Diego, Boston, Houston, Philadelphia, and Phoenix.
In my view, the City - both staff and Council - has basically singled out one individual business with this change. This was made abundantly clear by the Council's decision to allow staff to share images of that business' vehicles. I find this troubling. It's not the City's appropriate role to choose winners and losers in an industry. It's even worse to make decisions, as we seem to have done, on the basis of aesthetics or animus against a certain business.
Our actions also conflict directly with some of the rhetoric used to support this ordinance. At committee, much was made of the fact that this ordinance will help "create jobs." I find that extraordinarily difficult to square with the decision to include an unnecessary requirement that will, at best, impose significant costs on at least one operator and, at worst, put that operator out of business - and all for no tangible safety benefit. That doesn't sound like "creating jobs" to me.