Councilmember Marti Emerald continues to be a driving force behind pedicab regulation reform in the city. Ever since 60-year-old tourist Sharon Miller died as a result of getting thrown from a pedicab on July 4, Emerald has slammed the brakes on what has grown into a seemingly unregulated and competitive industry. "We needed tougher regulations to protect the public, and now we have them," read Emerald's September 1 press release.
Emerald's release was issued minutes after city council placed new regulations on bicycle taxis. Those new requirements: all passengers must wear seat belts; bicycle taxis are banned from sidewalks and from streets with speed limits over 25 miles per hour. And, pedicab operators must display their rates inside the cabs in plain view of passengers.
Emerald doesn't plan to stop there. She wants to reduce the number of operator permits issued each year from 400 to 250 and plans to do so through the Public Safety and Neighborhood Services committee, which she chairs.
For several owners of pedicab businesses, the change has been long overdue.
Engin Kaplan started his pedicab business five years ago when he was 25 years old. Since then, Kaplan has witnessed San Diego's pedicab industry change gears, going from 200 bicycle cabs to what he estimates is now more than 600 citywide.
"The industry is out of control," says Kaplan. "If they regulate the number of permits, it will be a better business. Yes, I'll give up some of my business."
If Emerald is successful in reducing the number of pedicab permits issued by the City, Kaplan will go from 30 pedicabs to 12.
"That will hurt me, and damage my income, but it will be better for the industry. There are too many pedicabs now, too much competition. The reason some drivers overcharge is because they work all day, maybe six or eight hours, and they only give two or three rides. They can't survive off of 20 or 30 dollars."
As for the new regulations, the steepest hill for pedicab drivers to climb, says Kaplan, will be staying off roads with speed limits higher than 25 miles per hour.
"Sometimes, you have to use those roads in order to get your passengers to their destination. So, that law will have to be broken. We'll still have the Gaslamp, but if you need to go down Harbor Drive, it's going to be very tough on the drivers. We'll train the drivers, but if they don't obey the new rules then they'll get the ticket, not the company."