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Pedicab driver Thomas Brossart gave Dena Mielzarek, left, and Jennifer Mader a ride down 1st Avenue to the Twins game Friday.

Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

Pedicabs want to hit street in rush hour

  • Article by: BILL McAULIFFE
  • Star Tribune
  • August 20, 2011 - 1:32 PM

A small group of drivers is actually asking to be able to drive during rush hour in Minneapolis.

They're owners and operators of pedicabs, the rickshaw-like vehicles that have become a feature of downtown street life.

They're seeking to amend a city ordinance so they can operate between 4 and 6 p.m., a period during which they're now banned from toting passengers, eliminating some of their Twins pregame market share.

For two women being chauffered in the back of one of the first pedicabs to arrive at Target Field Friday evening, "it's positive," said Jennifer Mader of Hugo.

"I love it," said Dena Mielzarek of Stillwater, adding that the pedicab saved her and Mader the trouble of walking several blocks from their parking ramp to the game. "It's convenient and it's fun. You're in the open air. And I think it's funny being pedaled around by a boy."

The two women and their driver, who didn't want to be quoted, also said that pedicabs are valuable in keeping drunks off the streets.

Mader and Mielzarek made certain they'd get a ride back to the parking ramp by getting their driver's phone number so they could call and make arrangements after the game.

The rush hour change is one of several the drivers and owners are seeking in a pedicab ordinance written, for unknown reasons, in 1984 -- long before the three-wheeled, pedal-powered phaetons took hold in the Twin Cities. The first pedicab permit issued in Minneapolis was in 1995, said Grant Wilson, manager of business licenses for the city.

The amendments, headed for a public hearing in September, would require that pedicab drivers be licensed, not to mention "properly attired" and sober. They would also set equipment standards for pedicabs, requiring disc or drum brakes, a working horn, side mirrors and turn signals.

Steve McCarty, fleet manager of Twin Town Pedicabs, which operates 23 pedicabs in both Minneapolis and St. Paul, said his company and other owners and pedicab drivers are seeking the regulations themselves.

"Coming of age? That's fair to say," McCarty said. "They've proliferated in the city. We want to make sure everyone has a clear understanding of the ground rules."

McCarty and Wilson both said the amendments would not limit the number of pedicabs now on the streets, toting passengers to events, hotels and historic sites. Licensing drivers also would mean that drivers could be ticketed personally for traffic violations; until now, the pedicab companies have sustained the fines.

Nevertheless, Minneapolis police spokesman Sgt. Bill Palmer said he didn't know of any widespread flouting of traffic laws by pedicabs.

The amendments also would require that pedicabs undergo an annual inspection, and prohibit passengers from drinking or possessing an open container of alcohol.

And what, exactly, might "properly attired" mean?

"No flip-flops," McCarty said.

Bill McAuliffe • 612-673-7646

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