One of the popular open-air bars-on-wheels operated by Twin Cities PedalPub tipped onto its side Thursday after making a right turn in downtown Minneapolis, sending two passengers to the hospital and slightly injuring several others.
James Walker of Woodbury, who was among several co-workers pedaling the vehicle in the final 15 minutes of a bar crawl, said the vehicle came fast down a hill and flipped onto its side as the driver steered into a turn at the corner of 1st Street and 5th Avenue S. No other vehicles were involved.
Walker and others immediately righted the vehicle to free those trapped beneath it on their bar stools.
The injured were all conscious, but one was moaning in pain and others reported having smacked their heads on the pavement, and scrapes and bruises, he said.
The incident occurred just after 2 p.m. near Mississippi riverfront running and biking paths and the RiverWest condo building. Photos of the toppled pub, with passengers lying in the road and beer pooling in the street, flew up on Twitter and Facebook, prompting animated discussions.
Not everyone's a fan
PedalPubs are undoubtedly popular, as evidenced by their ubiquity on Minneapolis and St. Paul streets, but they also have a vocal contingent of opponents.
An "I Hate the Pedal Pub" Facebook page has more than 2,700 likes and was peppered Thursday night with fresh photos and cranky comments. The toppled pub's torn seats were visible in photos from the crash scene. Cracks about a "tipsy" vehicle and alcohol probably being involved — although police said alcohol had nothing to do with the crash — also abounded.
The incident was "just an accident," said Minneapolis police spokeswoman Cyndi Barrington, adding, "Alcohol does not appear to be a factor." The two injured passengers were taken to Hennepin County Medical Center and treated for possible internal injuries, she said.
The owner of the vehicle involved, Twin Cities PedalPub, did not return a call for comment Thursday.
The slow-moving party vehicles are steered by a paid (and non-imbibing) driver and carry up to 16 people who pedal the vehicles' prechosen routes. Popular Minneapolis routes include downtown, Northeast and Dinkytown. The pubs are also popular in St. Paul, where they run along Grand Avenue, along W. 7th Street and in Lowertown.
The pubs rent for two hours — $385 Fridays and Saturdays, $325 Sundays through Thursdays. The company website says it provides the driver and two coolers. Passengers bring the rest.
Although the vehicles are open-air, passengers rarely wear helmets; none was visible after Thursday's incident.
Social media complaints about the pubs ranged from traffic concerns about road-hogging to reports of 16 pub crawlers walking into bars and wanting separate bills or getting rowdy and loud as the pubs travel through residential neighborhoods.
A commenter who called herself Heather Kittenheart wrote, "I am not thrilled about people getting hurt, even if they are stupid people on pedal pubs. But maybe this is just the sort of thing that needs to happen to get the city to start looking at the fact that these are essentially drunk people driving. Yes, someone sober may be steering. But if there is no motor to take over for the drunk pedalers, it's still drunk driving. And under the minimum speed limit, at that."
New rules passed this year
Early this year, Minneapolis passed new regulations on what it called "pedal cars" — banning hard liquor aboard and requiring operators to obtain licenses ($59 per driver and $98 per vehicle), to operate before 10 p.m., to keep the noise under a certain decibel level and to keep passengers from becoming too rowdy.
Pedal pubs became legal in Minnesota about four years ago, when Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-Hopkins, pushed a law exempting a "vehicle that is operated for commercial purposes in a manner similar to a bicycle ... with five or more passengers who provide pedal power to the drivetrain" from the state's prohibition on open alcohol containers in vehicles.
St. Paul also passed pedal-pub regulations in 2012. City and police representatives said Thursday that they do not know of any accidents involving pubs there.