Santa Monica might be the latest city to join a seemingly national trend in featuring pedicabs, or bicycle rickshaws, in one of its business districts.
Council members discussed the prospects of bringing pedicabs to Santa Monica earlier this month at City Hall, contemplating how best to implement local regulations in allowing the bicycle taxi to operate in areas such as the Downtown, Main Street, and Montana Avenue.
If City Hall does end up finding a way to allow pedicabs, Santa Monica would join a list of about 45 cities across the United States that feature the unique transportation modes.
The issue came to City Hall and the council after the company Trike Pilots, Inc. recently made a request to run as many as 20 pedicabs in Santa Monica.
“Pedicabs serve as a transportation option for short trips and are also a tourist attraction. They typically serve downtown, convention, and resort areas of cities as large as New York City and as small as Key West,” city staff said. “Due to the increasing popularity of pedicab operations, and in response to instances of serious injury and death of pedicab passengers, cities have begun to implement stronger vehicle and driver regulations.”
The City of Los Angeles is considering implementing pedicabs in Hollywood.
“Customers use pedicabs in lieu of taxicabs or other forms of transportation because they are novel, allow for greater interaction with surroundings, are environmentally friendly, and are efficient,” city staff added. “Although pedicabs provide benefits to a city, they also present challenges when employed in areas with high traffic congestion and limited available curb space and street parking.”
If allowed, there are two potential types of pedicabs that would be featured in Santa Monica: single frame passenger or retrofitted bicycle.
The retrofitted bicycle features a “carriage trailer hitched to a bicycle,” which, according to a University of Tennessee study, “were more difficult to control and were not consistently and safely converted.”
City staff noted pedicabs have a few features that make them unique, such as no motor-operated mechanisms, a secondary emergency brake system, battery-operated headlights and taillights, and an audible signaling device.
Should pedicabs arrive in Santa Monica, City Hall would regulate them much like it regulates vehicular taxicabs. For example, all pedicabs would be subject to annual inspections and would received a decal that would be conspicuously displayed to passengers.
Other regulations would include: being equipped with headlight projecting 300 feet and two taillights projecting 500 feet; brakes in good working order; proper signage notifying passengers must wear restraints; front safety bars, seatbelts, and armrests or hip restraints; and, seats that are covered in high friction material.
Drivers would also be subject to background checks and testing, as well as be required to carry a valid California driver’s license and under go bicycle safety training.
The California vehicle code regulates pedicabs in the state’s other cities where the unique transportation modes are found, such as San Diego. Pedicabs are considered bicycles under the state vehicle code and, accordingly, must either operate in bike lanes or drive within the flow of traffic.