The Pedalpocalypse Is Coming…


or shall we call it Pedigeddon?

On November 21st, the NYPD will commence enforcing New York City’s pedicab law, which requires that pedicab owners get a business license and carry general liability insurance; that pedicab drivers possess a valid pedicab driver’s license; and that all pedicabs pass a DCA-administered inspection. To pass inspection, a pedicab must be equipped with front and back lights, turn signals, primary and emergency brakes, and other safety features. As of Saturday any unregistered pedicab is liable to be confiscated, and any unlicensed driver hauled away by pedi-wagon.

The yellow trike on the right is the first RR pedicab to pass DCA inspection.

The yellow trike on the right is the first RR pedicab to pass DCA inspection.

Here at Revolution we welcome the advent of regulation, as we expect it will help legitimize the industry in the eyes of the public, and make patrons safer and more secure when riding in rickshaws. Also, it’s a step towards making pedicabs a known quantity, which in turn might make them a more accessible and widely used mode of transportation.

As it is, most Manhattan transport-seekers know what to expect from a ride in a taxi cab (range, speed, approximate fare) – but know very little about what it might be like to ride in a pedicab. In fact, misconceptions abound, regarding rickshaws’ costs and capabilities: They’re not necessarily super-expensive to ride in, they’re not just for tourists, and they won’t turn into pumpkins upon exiting midtown. Sure, a pedicab ride is almost always going to cost more than a cab ride of the same distance, but it may not cost that much more – plus, you can always get up-front quotes from pedicab drivers, and those quotes are often negotiable. Though it’s true that pedicabs are most efficient (compared to motor weapons) when taking short trips through congested areas, they are also perfectly capable of traveling a mile or two or three, at an average pace of about ten minutes per mile. Now that each pedicab is required to display a rate card indicating how fares are calculated, prospective passengers will be better able to anticipate what a ride might cost them. Should pedicabs – like taxi cabs – eventually be required to abide by a standard system of fare calculation, prospective passengers would be able to estimate the price of a trip in any pedicab, even before hailing one. This would allow transport-seekers to make an informed decision about whether a pedicab might be a feasible form of conveyance in a given situation, rather than dismissing that option out of hand.

Will it one day be common in New York City for both locals and visitors to hail pedicabs? Will hotel doormen start flagging down rickshaw drivers to convey well-heeled guests to theaters and restaurants? Will our corner of the U.S. catch up with human-powered-transport capitals like India and Bangladesh? Who knows? Perhaps the coming pedalpocalypse will clear the way for the dawn of rickshawtopia.