Friday, I plan to introduce subject matter of an ordinance that will, if passed, allow electric-assist bicycles to be used as pedicabs in Minneapolis.
This idea came from Bill Beekman, a resident of Ward 13, who wants to start a small business pedaling a particular European-made pedicab called a Veloform. It was discussed during last fall's complete revamp of the pedicab ordinance (which, as you can read here, also made things difficult for another small business owner), but the City could not legally allow electric-assist pedicabs then due to a quirk of state law.
That quirk was that electric-assist bicycles were categorized as a subset of "motorized bicycles," rather than as a subset of "bicycles," and it's against state law to let anyone ride on a motorized bicycle. That law makes sense, when thinking about a bike with a 2-stroke motor that goes 30mph; you don't want people giving each other rides on bikes like those. It was pretty clearly not intended to outlaw electric-assist pedicabs. Last fall, the City's Bicycle Advisory Committee recommended that we ask the legislature to fix that quirk.
Senator Scott Dibble has made the fix, redefining electric-assist bicycles as bicycles, the way they should have been categorized. That opens up an opportunity for the City to revisit the idea of allowing electric-assist pedicabs.
Building on its past support, and after extensive conversation with both the hopeful entrepreneur and others in the pedicab industry, the Bicycle Advisory Committee has unanimously supported allowing electric-assist pedicabs in Minneapolis.
I look forward to working with staff to come up with an ordinance that will gain the support of bicyclists, the existing and hopeful new pedicab operators, the Bicycle Advisory Committee and the Council. Some of the key restrictions that I will insist we include in that ordinance include a complete prohibition on pedicabs that move without the operator pedaling (for instance, the eVeloform, which is completely electric), and a limit on the amount of power the electric motor can provide. This process will take a few months, to draft the ordinance and have it vetted by the BAC.
I hope, in a few months, that we will allow Bill and others like him to start this new, interesting business type in Minneapolis, with the jobs that will come with it.