Pedicabs banned from Michigan Avenue and State Street

  • The City Council passed an ordinance to regulate the pedicab industry. The Chicago Pedicab Association opposed the Loop restriction.
The City Council passed an ordinance to regulate the pedicab industry.… (Leonor Vivanco/RedEye )
April 30, 2014|By Leonor Vivanco, @lvivanco | RedEye

Pedicabs are no longer allowed downtown during weekday rush hour periods, and they will be banned entirely on Michigan Avenue and State Street, under an ordinance approved by the City Council on Wednesday.

The restriction means that residents and tourists won't be able to get a pedicab ride down Michigan Avenue during Lollapalooza or the Taste of Chicago in Grant Park.

They are banned from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday from the area bounded by the Chicago River to the north and west, Lake Michigan to the east, and Congress Parkway to the south. Michigan Avenue and State Street are off-limits at all times from Congress Parkway to Oak Street.

The ordinance was passed despite more than 600 signatures on a change.org petition urging that ban be lifted.

"Michigan Avenue and State Street in particular are where our customer base is," T.C. O'Rourke, a board member of the Chicago Pedicab Association, said outside City Hall on Wednesday. "It's where people want to go when they hail us in other places. It's the streets that we need to showcase when we take people on tours."

Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), the main sponsor of the ordinance, which is supported by residental and business organizations, said he has received safety complaints about pedicabs.

"I know some were concerned, but at least it gets them into regulation, and it's not set in stone forever," he said on Tuesday. "They'll have coverage of over 98 percent of the city. I think that's a pretty good start."

While pedicab operators said they support regulation including licensing, insurance and safety requirements, they believe Chicago's ordinance, specifically its operating restrictions, will harm the industry.

This ordinance caps the number of licensed pedicabs at 200.

The ordinance prohibits pedicabs from giving rides to more than four passengers at one time and riding pedicabs on sidewalks. While the city does not set fare rates, a pedicab fare schedule is required to be posted.

No passenger can drink alcohol while riding in a pedicab or whoever is caught drinking faces a fine of $1,000 to $5,000.

Pedicab owners need to get a $250 annual pedicab license for each pedicab and operators have to get $25 annual pedicab chauffeur licenses.

Those who get pedicab licenses must have workers compensation insurance and insurance policies that meet certain minimums.

Each pedicab is required to have a decal affixed on the back of the passenger carriage, be no more than 55 inches wide and 120 inches long, must be equipped with passenger seat belts, must have spoke reflectors on wheels, hydraulic or mechanical disc or drum brakes, headlights and tail lights visible for 500 feet, and a bell or audible signaling device. They are allowed to have advertisements on the pedicab's interior and exterior.

To get the pedicab chauffeur license, applicants must have had a valid state driver's license for one year, be at least 18 years old, get a physical exam, pass a drug test, complete an exam on city geography and not be in debt to the city. They cannot have convictions within the past five years for any felony, any crime involving moral turpitude, illegal sale or possession of a controlled substance, indecent solicitation of a child or criminal sexual abuse, or DUI.

Another mandate is to pay a ground transportation tax of $1 for each pedicab for each day the pedicab is used.

The assumption that pedicabs cause traffic congestion is wrong, pedicab operators said.

"What causes more traffic congestion? A double-parked limousine, a 50-foot bus making a turn, or a pedicab in a bike lane? Pedicabs should be part of the solution and not banned from downtown," said Robert Tipton, owner and operator of Chicago Rickshaw since 2008.

The Chicago Tribune contributed.

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