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Santa Monica Could Adopt New Pedicab Ordinance

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark
By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

April 4, 2013 -- With four companies applying for business licenses to operate pedicabs in Santa Monica, the City Council will vote Tuesday on new regulations that would ban them from the Beach Bike Path.

The ordinance, as proposed, would levy fees on those companies for permits and business licenses as well as require annual inspections of the pedicabs by City staff to ensure that the cabs have headlights, taillights, turn signals on the front and rear of the pedicab and brakes.

Staff will also require that drivers have current drivers' licenses and clean driving records.

Even with the regulations, Council member Bob Holbrook is skeptical about allowing pedicabs to operate in Santa Monica.

“I think they are going to be a problem,” said Council member Bob Holbrook. “There's going to be congestion.”

Holbrook said that, as Santa Monica narrows streets for wider sidewalks and more bike lanes, the room left for cars is shrinking and pedicabs would only slow traffic down further.

Council member Kevin McKeown echoed that sentiment at the October 2 Council meeting when staff first addressed the question of pedicab regulations.

“Given that we are very congested city, this has both great promise for reliving the congestion and,... if we are not careful, it could make the congestion worse,” McKeown said.

Some believe that pedicabs would ultimately benefit the city.

"I'm sure people hated the idea of a bus riding on the streets, or even red lights for that matter, but the environment needs clean modes of transportation," said Derrick Carr, owner of Pedal 4 U, one of the four companies applying for licenses to operate in Santa Monica.

"A big plus for business in Santa Monica is that pedicab customers ride slow and can see the shops they pass unlike taxis and faster transports," he said.

He would also like to see the Beach Bike Path open to pedicabs because, he said, bike trails are safer.

The proposed ordinance would prohibit pedicabs from using routes that aren't designated in their permit applications, which means that City staff could keep pedicabs on wider streets where the traffic is already slow.

The ordinance would also ban pedicabs from the State-controlled Beach Bike Path in order to address “safety concerns,” staff said.

However, there is no mechanism to control the number of pedicabs that can be operated within the city.

At the moment, four pedicab companies are awaiting approval of their business license applications, pending adoption of the ordinance, including Trike Pilot, Inc. which hopes to eventually operate 20 pedicabs in the city.

The other three companies -- Pedal 4 U, Bay City Pedi-Taxi Tour and Los Angeles Pedicab -- have not specified the number of pedicabs they hope to operate, since it is not required under the current regulations.

“We will be monitoring and should things become unmanagable, then we would go back to Council with any additional recommendations,” said Salvador Valles, business and revenue operations manager.

The ordinance would charge an annual operator's permit fee of $195 and $112 fee for a new pedicab vehicle permit, which would cost $51 to renew annually.

According to City staff, though many California cities do allow pedicabs to operate, Los Angeles does not, though that may soon change, as Los Angeles is currently exploring the regulation options.

The California Vehicle Code defines a pedicab as either a bicycle operated by a person that has three or more wheels -- or a bicycle with a trailer -- and is capable of transporting passengers for hire on attached seats.

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