Does LADOT Fear Pedicabs?

6_16_09_pedicab.jpgCount the number of dress code violations the LADOT would like to give this operator.  Photo:No Onions/Flickr

After a solid push from Councilwoman Jan Perry’s office, the City of Los Angeles is finally debating a proposal to bring pedicabs back to the streets of Los Angeles.  Pedicabs have proven wildly popular in a diverse amount of American cities, everywhere from San Diego, to New York, to Portland, to San Francisco.  While the city has had pedicab rules on the books since 1986, a pair of operators tried to bring the business to L.A. in 2007 and were shutdown.

Now, the LADOT has written up a list of new rules allegedly to help bring pedicabs back, but the rule list is so onerous and at times ridiculous that one can’t help but question whether they really mean it.  In its first report on the rules, Blogdowntown deadpanned:

but new rules proposed by the city’s Department of Transportation could
be so onerous and confusing as to make the service unappealing to both
riders and operators.

The new rules regulated everything from dress code, to routes, to helmet requirements for drivers and passengers and an onerous licensing procedure.  Fortunately, the Transportation Commission, a group of transportation planners that review many LADOT reports and recommendations before they go to the Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee, was as incredulous at some of these rules as Blogdowntown and other cyclists.  They sent the LADOT packing until next month’s meeting, hoping that they come back with a competent piece of work.

At this point, one has to wonder why anyone listens to the LADOT when it comes to bicycling laws, rules or engineering.  The LADOT insisted to the Commission that state law required that bike helmets be worn by all riders, and passengers over the age of 18.  When the Commissioners noticed that no such law exists, in fact I can’t even find a mention of helmets for riders or passengers in San Francicso or other California cities’ rules for pedicabs.  And of course, the state’s helmet law for those riding normal bicycles only applies to those under the age of 18.  When the LADOT explained that their rules only required drivers to supply helmets, the Transportation Commission noticed the rules said the exact opposite of what the LADOT said they did.

While the Commission focused on the patently ridiculous, such as the helmet law and LADOT’s Amir Sedadi’s fear that Hawaiian shirts would take over the streets of Los Angeles, the LADOT’s licensing program is what could provide the greatest threat to pedicabs.

Specific wording in the permitting part of the application require that during licensing, all potential operators submit routes, maps, hours of operation and other parts of their business plan for review by the LADOT in conjunction with the local council offices and the LAPD.  What is of concern is that one of the things the LADOT is looking at is whether or not the proposed routes and hours will effect "traffic congestion" and "local businesses." 

Since we already know that the LADOT considers single-passenger bikes as traffic impediments, this language seems to imply that they will only allow pedicabs to operate on streets that don’t attract a lot of car traffic and don’t have a lot of businesses.   You know, just the sort of places that there won’t be any traffic for pedicabs.

It’s important for the Transportation Commission, and later the City Council, to deal with the LADOT’s theater of the absurd; but it’s more important that they go into the details of the program and make certain that this rules list for pedicabs isn’t just a secret plan to make sure a program never gets started.

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