Testimony of Noah Budnick, Deputy Director of Advocacy, Transportation Alternatives to the New York City Council

Good afternoon Chairman Comrie and members of the Consumer Affairs Committee. My name is Noah Budnick, and I am the Deputy Director of Advocacy for Transportation Alternatives, New York City's advocates for biking, walking and sensible transportation.

Transportation Alternatives is a longtime supporter of pedicabs in New York City, and we are encouraged to see that the City Council is working towards regulations that promote pedicabs and public safety and that will allow pedicabs to operate lawfully on all the streets of New York City.

Before commenting on the specific provisions of Intro 75, we ask that the stated intent of the legislation be clarified to reflect its focus on commercial pedicab regulation and safety, and that it is not intended to regulate non-commercial pedicabs, pedi-cycles and bicycles.

We are here to support many of the provisions in the City Council's version of Intro 75 and to comment on a few of them. However, we have serious concerns over the proposed legislation submitted by the Administration.

We support the Council's regulations regarding licensing pedicab operators and requiring insurance. These are commonsense measures that will help ensure a safe pedicab industry.

Transportation Alternatives has concerns over several measures in the Council's proposed regulations that apply to these commercial human powered vehicles, that if extended to non-commercial human powered vehicles, like bicycles and pedicycles, would make the simple act of riding a bike much more difficult for private citizens and greatly reduce the number of people who cycle in New York City each day. Reducing the number of cyclists on the street will make traffic more dangerous for those who continue to ride bikes by undermining the proven "safety in numbers" effect, which shows that increasing the number of cyclists on the roads reduces the number of cyclist crashes, injuries and deaths.

Primarily, we are opposed to pedicab driver licensing because we see it as a step towards licensing for all bike riders, a measure that Transportation Alternatives wholly opposes. The Council has smartly not acted on past bike licensing proposals, and my organization, and bike advocates across the U.S., sincerely hope that this body will continue to focus its efforts on encouraging bicycling and human powered transport and not take any actions that would make such modes of travel more burdensome and less used in New York City.

For similar reasons, we also have concerns over the Council's proposed regulations requiring license plates, inspections and training and examinations. While we understand that such rules may be appropriate for these commercial human powered vehicles, the prospect of the City mandating license plates, bicycle inspections and bike training and exams as requirements for the average New York to go for a bike ride is frightening, as, like bike licensing or even requiring all adult cyclists to wear helmets, would drastically reduce the number of people who ride each day in New York City. This is bad for people's health, the environment, public safety, reducing traffic and improving quality of life.

My organization and many environmental, health and community organizations around the city are wary of anything that would make cycling less convenient and more burdensome and, thus, would decrease bike riding. Thus, Transportation Alternatives urges that the Council's proposed commercial pedicab regulations to explicitly state that they apply to only commercial pedicabs and not to non-commercial human powered vehicles.

Earlier this week, Transportation Alternatives received a copy of the Administration's proposed pedicab regulations. These proposed rules are malicious towards pedicabs and, at points, discriminatory and beg the question of whether the Administration even spoke to any pedicab owners, operators or experts before drafting them because these rules seem to be intended to cripple New York City's pedicab industry.

Transportation Alternatives is opposed to any restrictions on a pedicab's right to travel on any park drive or other street where cyclists are permitted to travel. For safety, City and State traffic law already prohibit bicycles and pedicabs from highways and other limited access roads. This is commonsense. Prohibiting pedicabs from park drives and other streets is not. Not only does limiting the movement of pedicabs severely compromise their use, it sets a worrisome precedent for future restrictions on the movement of other human powered vehicles.

The pedicab industry is market-driven, and we are opposed to any legislated, or other, cap government seeks to place on the number of pedicabs in operation or the specific price for fares. Transportation Alternatives does support regulation that requires all fares to be negotiated before a pedicab trip begins. So long as there is demand, the market will support additional pedicabs, and there is no need to set arbitrary limits there numbers. Since pedicab fares vary from trip to trip, depending on the number of passengers, the distance, the weather and other factors, fares are best set by the pedicab operators and their passengers at the beginning of each trip, not by legislation.

While I am not an expert on pedicab design, I read the Administration's proposed regulations and wondered again if any pedicab designers, owners or drivers were consulted when equipment requirements like a maximum pedicab width of 60-inches and a maximum capacity of two adults and one child were thrown into their version of the bill. This seems arbitrary and aimed at limiting the pedicab industry.

Pedicabs are city-friendly pollution-free vehicles. They are good for the environment and the health and quality of life of New Yorkers, they help people quickly get where they need to go, and they are a unique part of New York, endearing the city to tourists and New Yorkers alike. Intro 75 will help establish and legitimize this growing trade, but should not unduly regulate legitimate business owners out of business. The Administration's bill will only undermine the pedicab industry. We hope that this Committee and the Council will continue to work with the pedicab owners' association, pedicab operators association, and advocates and bring the Administration and interests lobbying it to the table to negotiate and promulgate regulations that will promote the continued use of pedicabs throughout the city. Thank you.

Testimony Old URL
Secondary Title
Consumer Affairs Committee on New York City Council Introduction 75 Regarding Pedicabs