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New York could limit number of pedicabs allowed on streets

AM-NY - Associated Press - December 11, 2006

NEW YORK (AP)  As the city moves to regulate the growing use of bicycle taxis, among the rules under consideration is a cap on the number of them allowed on the streets.

A City Council committee is examining legislation that would put in place safety standards and licensing requirements for the vehicles, known as pedicabs. The contraptions, which look like giant tricycles with passenger carriages in the back, are a favorite mode of transportation for tourists and some residents who embrace pollution-free alternatives or want to cut through vehicular traffic.

At a hearing Monday, some council members said the vehicles seem dangerous, and they suggested they might cause traffic jams around Times Square and other landmarks in midtown Manhattan, where they are known to congregate.

Pedicab associations maintain that the vehicles are safe and help alleviate congestion. Some drivers and operators say they welcome regulation to help protect the industry and secure its role as a legitimate form of transport.

Asked about the hearing on Monday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he likes pedicabs and believes they are essential to the city's uniqueness, although he has never ridden in one. He added, however, that it is time to regulate the industry and perhaps restrict the number allowed on roadways.

"Clearly there has to be a limit as to how many," Bloomberg said. "You just can't have so many that it clogs the streets, and we have enough congestion as it is now."

His transportation commissioner, Iris Weinshall, told the council committee that officials estimate there are between 300 and 400 pedicabs operating. The administration hopes that the law under consideration, which would require vehicles and drivers to be licensed, insured and monitored, will give them a better idea of whether a limit should be set.

The legislation being considered does not propose a cap but gives the city power to set one if necessary.

Copyright 2006 Newsday Inc.

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