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Pedicabs Can Do Business in Santa Monica, Council Says

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

April 11, 2013 -- Pedicabs can operate in Santa Monica, as long as they stay off the beach bike path and the Pier, the City Council decided Tuesday.

The ordinance, unanimously Tuesday to adopt an ordinance that would allow pedicabs to operate in the beachside city while establishing a number of safety standards operators would have to meet, including banning them from the beach bike path and the Pier.

Approved unanimously, the ordinance requires that pedicab operators undergo a bicycle safety training course and that every driver hold a valid driver's license and have a clean driving record. But it stops short of putting any limits on the number of pedicabs that can operate in the beachside city.

“We didn't have any legal basis to deny the business application,” said Salvador Valles, business and revenue operations manager for the City. He was referring to several business applications the City recently received from pedicab companies wishing to set up shop in Santa Monica.

Since pedicabs are considered bicycles by the California Vehicle Code, the City cannot pass restrictions on them that would supersede State law.

However, officials said that this ordinance would augment current law and help address safety concerns.

“We were concerned because we didn't have any real material pedicab regulations that existed,” Valles told the Council. “We are not proposing a cap on pedicabs or to create pedicab zones nor to regulate the rates that they charge.”

Though council members were concerned about circulation issues arising from having pedicabs operate on major thoroughfares, they considered the ordinance better than nothing.

“Absent this ordinance, we would be saying that pedicabs could operate in the City of Santa Monica with no restriction,” said Council member Kevin McKeown.

McKeown saw a parallel to the City's taxi franchise system which was born out of an unregulated “wild west.”

Council member Bob Holbrook, who said he was worried that pedicabs may become “a scourge” on the city, echoed McKeown's sentiments that some regulation was better than none at all.

Council member Tony Vazquez was worried that promoting pedicabs as a business could create more circulation problems in a city already dealing with traffic and street closures due to the Expo Light Rail construction along some of its major thoroughfares.

According to the ordinance, pedicab companies would have to submit their maximum rates to City Hall, though there is nothing in the ordinance to regulate what those rates could be.

Under the ordinance, companies would be required to have their vehicles inspected regularly and pay business licensing fees and permit fees. The pedicab companies would also be required to submit their hours of operation and their proposed routes.

Companies would not be able to operate on a route that they didn't submit and couldn't charge fares higher than those filed with the City, said Valles.

However, the routes they submit to the City “are where they would be typically picking up passengers but they could take them anywhere in the city to drop them off,” said Valles.

Council member Gleam Davis thought that pedicabs, which she said are usually cheaper and more willing to go shorter distances than taxis, would be an asset in getting people home after a night on the town.

“They could be an alternate form of transportation for someone who is not in any condition to drive,” she said.

But she also added that staff should report back in about six months on how this ordinance is being enforced and how many infractions there have been, if any.

The ordinance does not establish any designated pick-up zones for pedicabs, which would be allowed to stop anywhere that a car or other vehicle can stop to pick up passengers.

“As we see this roll out, we will amend the controls and restrictions,” said McKeown.

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