Testimony of Noah Budnick, Deputy Director, 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 and believes any laws, rules or regulations promulgated by the City of New York to regulate them should encourage their use, not limit it. With political, planning, development, economic, health and environmental discussions increasingly focusing on New York City's growth over the coming decades and how to accommodate more people, jobs and development into our already crowded city, it only makes sense for City policies to encourage pedicabs and other modes of transportation that do not pollute or contribute to environmental and public health and safety ills or traffic congestion.

While there is need to regulate pedicabs, there is no need to restrict where they may operate. The City Council, the Administration and others have not produced any evidence that pedicabs have a negative effect on the city, traffic, public safety, the economy, the environment or on public health. In fact, pedicabs help improve many of these things.

As the City Council and Administration work towards enacting pedicab regulations, both branches of government should work in good faith and in open dialogue with the pedicab industry. Pedicab owners and drivers are the experts on pedicabs. They have over a decade of professional experience, building, operating and maintaining both pedicabs and their industry. And, even now, in the absence of government regulation, many owners and drivers participate in a high-level self-regulatory program (New York City Pedicab Owners' Association's "Code of Practice for Pedicab Owners") that pledges to provide safe, insured, skilled, accountable and high quality pedicab service. Continued discussions between government and pedicab interests are essential in developing regulations that are consistent with the everyday, on-the-street working conditions of the pedicab industry and ensure a high level of public safety and service, while not overburdening pedicab owners and drivers with bureaucratic, overbearing or restrictive rules.

The stated intent in both bills should be to regulate commercial and for-hire pedicabs and not to regulate non-commercial pedicabs, pedi-cycles and bicycles. An overbroad bill could apply to a private individual who owns a pedicab for personal use and would make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for him or her to pedal a pedicab in New York City. Furthermore, if many of these commercial regulations were extended to non-commercial human powered vehicles, like bicycles and pedicycles, they 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. 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.

Because these bills are intended to regulate the pedicab industry, Transportation Alternatives urges the Committee to pull out the amendment to City Administrative Code 19-171.1 and to consider it in a separate bill. This amendment is clearly aimed "party bikes" and should be debated apart from pedicab regulations. The nature and design of these vehicles are different, and just as taxicabs and site seeing tours are treated differently, regulations should be developed independent of each other.

Transportation Alternatives is opposed to any restrictions on a pedicab's right to travel on any park drive, bridge 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, bridges and other streets is not, and neither the Council nor the Administration has produced evidence to back up the need for this proposed restriction. 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 Transportation Alternatives is 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 on their 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.

Transportation Alternatives has serious concerns over 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, insurance 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, insurance 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.

Though I am not an expert on pedicab design, I urge the City Council to work with the experts in the New York City pedicab industry to develop safe equipment and design guidelines. Pedicab widths and passenger capacity should not be arbitrary numbers but should be based on current industry standards and the latest innovative designs. To not consult with the pedicab industry on such guidelines would produce uninformed standards and could limit the 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. We hope that this Committee and the City 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 help establish and legitimize this growing trade and not unduly regulate legitimate business owners out of business.

Thank You

Testimony Old URL
061211pedicabs
Secondary Title
Consumer Affairs Committee oversight hearing on New York City Council Introductions 75-A and 331-A Regarding Pedicabs