City Council refused to consider a sweeping ordinance regulating bicycle taxis known as “pedicabs” at the March 9 City Council meeting, deciding instead to revisit the issue, if needed, in a year. The proposed ordinance, some 13 pages in length, is effectively off Council’s agenda for the foreseeable future.
Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, likened the proposed ordinance to “beating a mosquito with an automatic weapon.” Saying she had some “real problems with this,” she called the measure “overwhelming.”
Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, asked who was responsible for requesting pedicab regulation. “Whose idea was this?” he asked.
“It was the City Manager’s idea,” said City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz, stepping gamely to the podium. “The number of those vehicles after a football game has become an issue… There are some difficulties.”
In response, the City’s legal department prepared an ordinance that would have, if passed, limited the number of pedicabs in Evanston to a maximum of 10. Each such cab would be required to get a license for the vehicle ($150 per year), plus a separate license for the driver ($25 per year) and carry insurance covering $50,000 in property damage, $100,000 accidental death and $300,000 in multiple accidental death.
Applicants for an Evanston pedicab license would be required to “have its principal place of business in the City of Evanston.” Current pedicabs, when they are in Evanston, are generally from Chicago. Applicants would have to submit to fingerprinting and “provide photos of the applicant as required by the City Manager.” An undefined fee would be associated with the fingerprinting and photos, payable by the applicant whether a license was granted or not.
If a license were to be granted, the pedicab would receive a decal to affix to the pedicab. “The pedicab license decal shall be affixed in a manner prescribed by the City Manager by rule,” the proposed ordinance stipulated.
Each pedicab would be required to meet Evanston standards – “no more than 55 inches wide and 120 inches long.” Each would be required to have seatbelts and a “functioning headlight capable of projecting a beam of white light for a distance of 500 feet.” Similarly, taillights projecting red lights 500 feet would be required.
Regular bicycle brakes would not be sufficient – “hydraulic or mechanical disc or drum brakes” would be necessary. Turn signals, “a bell or another similar audible signaling device,” and “such other equipment as required by rules and regulations promulgated by the City Manager” would be mandated on all Evanston-licensed pedicabs, according to the proposed ordinance.
Pedicab drivers would have to provide certification from “an Illinois-licensed physician that he has the capability to operate a pedicab.” Drug tests are a must. Drivers must have “completed an examination as prescribed by the City Manager demonstrating a knowledge of the geography of the City and the laws, ordinances and regulations governing vehicle operation in the City.” Drivers would be required to pass a clean background check.
Penalties for violating the ordinance would range from an initial $100 fine to $500 for a second and any subsequent violation.
The Administration and Public Works Committee, meeting just before the full City Council meeting, decided after a brief discussion to table the pedicab regulation for at least a year. Unaware of this decision, Minku Sharma of the Chicago Pedicab Association, speaking at Citizen Comment, urged the Council to “not pass the ordinance today.”
“Well, you won that one,” said Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl.
Such an ordinance would “result in a loss of jobs,” said Mr. Sharma.
Ald. Rainey invited Mr. Sharma to bring pedicabs up to Evanston more regularly, as she said there is a need for more clean transportation options. “There is no ordinance” regulating pedicabs, she said.
“You’d have to give us a really good reason to come up here,” said Mr. Sharma.