Keeping tabs on pedicabs

  • Article by: STEVE BRANDT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 9, 2011 - 9:23 PM

Minneapolis imposes new operating rules but now also allows them to take customers during rush hour.

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Colin McCarty in one of his pedicabs, driven by one of his contractors, J.P. Waterman, Tuesday afternoon on 2nd St. N. in Minneapolis.

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

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If you're planning to haul a stripper in your Minneapolis pedicab to advertise a business -- a practice witnessed by a council member in another city -- that stripper will need to bump and grind without amplified music.

Pedicab drivers will also have to keep their clothes on.

The loud music ban is part of a package of pedicab regulations that won City Council approval Friday and that specify right down to what pedicab drivers must wear on their feet -- secure footwear. Shirts are required. Ditto for pants or shorts.

Drivers can't light up or drink while driving, nor may their passengers consume booze.

Those are among requirements of a revamped ordinance that tries to make pedicabs safer but also gives them new freedom to operate in the greater downtown area during rush hours. The city has eight licensed pedicab companies with 40 licensed pedicabs. Cabs cost $96 annually to license and drivers now will be required to have a $59 individual license.

Pedicab owners will be required to obtain $1 million per cab in liability insurance, more than three times the current $300,000.

They'll need to demonstrate that they can stop in 15 feet at 10 miles per hour. They'll need annual checks for safety equipment such as lights and brakes. Drivers will need to be at least 18, not have too many recent moving violations, and no careless or reckless driving convictions within the past three years.

In exchange for these and other restrictions sponsored by Council Member Gary Schiff, the City Council also lifted operating hour limits for pedicabs, so they can now stay on the roads during morning and afternoon rush hours.

The changes were praised by Colin McCarty, owner of Twin Town, which operates 23 pedicabs in the metro area.

"I'm glad they're calling for a stronger safety standard," he said after the council's 11-2 vote, saying it wouldn't affect him as much as some operators. Dropping rush-hour restrictions is "huge from an operating standpoint" McCarty said. He said Twin Town has had to turn down calls from hotel guests seeking a pedicab ride to an early dinner.

But Ryan Dean, who operates Shottyz with two cabs, said the new braking requirements pose "a major expense with what I feel is not a lot of results." He's confident in his dual-system rear brakes but said the design of his cabs, which puts passengers ahead of the pedaler on a pivoted frame, makes front brakes problematic.

"I definitely feel like the laws have been conjured in a way to push me out," Dean said, after Council Members Kevin Reich and Cam Gordon tried without luck to modify the braking requirement to require only the stopping test, without specifying braking equipment. Gordon and Robert Lilligren voted against the proposal over some specific provisions.

Pedicabs may carry ads on the cab body but not otherwise, and amplified sound to solicit business is forbidden.

Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438

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