Chicago pedicabs run into rough headwinds from City Hall

Sun Oct 5, 2014 11:24am EDT
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By Mary Wisniewski

CHICAGO (Reuters) - T.C. O'Rourke has encountered plenty of nasty weather in his years as a Chicago pedicab operator - rain, snow and steamy summer heat.

But he has never pedaled into a headwind as rough as this year's blast from City Hall, which has imposed some of the toughest rules in the nation against the foot-powered tricycle taxis.

A city ordinance that passed in June, just at the start of pedicabs' busiest season, bans them from downtown Chicago during rush hour, and from Michigan and State streets, which are home to dozens of stores and restaurants, at all times.

The crackdown came just as Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration touts its progress on making the city more bike-friendly.

Supporters of the new law, which also requires licenses for operators and vehicles, cited safety concerns, including operators going down streets the wrong way and riding on sidewalks.

"I think it has had a pretty drastic impact," said O'Rourke, a board member for the Chicago Pedicab Association. "There are jobs lost and in this kind of economy where youth unemployment is at all time highs, I don't understand why you'd do anything to squelch it."

O'Rourke, who said he secured the city's first pedicab chauffeur's license, said he is not anti-regulation. But he thinks the geographic and time restrictions, as well as severe fines, are killing business.

The Pedicab Association is pushing the city council to amend the law. But a representative for Alderman Tom Tunney, who backed the law, said that while the alderman is open to taking another look at it, he sees no "major tweaks" until next year.   Continued...

T.C. O'Rourke sits in his pedicab outside Wrigley Field in the Wrigleyville neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois, September 19, 2014.  REUTERS/Jim Young