Though a handful of pedicabs have been pedaling around Philadelphia for several years, the group’s attempt last year to break into Center City Philadelphia met more than a little resistance.
Chariots of Philly has been shuttling passengers around Manayunk since 2003, following a larger urban trend toward the environmentally friendly alternative to taxis and horse drawn carriages but the project’s been stalled by an outdated lack of regulation.
Experientially, pedicabs give passengers a more intimate picture of the city and are often much less expensive than conventional transit. For tourists, the human-powered vehicles are a terrific way to explore the city and witness first hand all the vibrancy and bustle of its streets. The pace and efficiency of bicycles in the urban setting make the pedicab a perfect solution for short trips and picturesque jaunts about town. Also known as rickshaws, cycle-rickshaws or bike-taxis, the concept is hardly a new one; the rather old-fashioned way of getting around a crowded city street is simply making a comeback. But while the trend has taken hold all over the world in large and small cities alike, the emerging sector of transportation often lacks the municipal regulation necessary for achieving legitimacy.
Which brings us back to the particular roadblock in the way of Philadelphia’s pedicabs. Though Chariots of Philly has long operated in Manayunk’s quiet streets, their delve into Philadelphia’s more intense traffic has elicited an order by the city to cease operations until further notice. Following this setback, the community of Manayunk has since banned them as well, pending an ordinance by City Council providing regulation.
As with all things bicycle related, concerns for safety for the public often seem to overshadow the benefits provided by decreased automobile traffic and more diverse options for transporation across city streets. And it’s true, operators and passengers of pedicabs need to have protection under the law, but this shouldn’t stand in for the sluggish adaptation by existing transit schemes to new modes. As this movement for pedicabs spreads, there is no question that pedicabs will eventually serve the people of Philadelphia. Rather the issue is when. Together with the Bicycle Coalition, Chariots of Philly is working on a petition to urge Philadelphia’s City Council to tackle the industry’s regulation sooner than later. As a resident or frequent visitor to the City that Loves You Back, you can show some love by signing that important petition here.
Image credit: jasonyungny at Flickr under a Creative Commons license