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“Save the heels, use the wheels,” Rudy says. “Actually, that line’s better in the evenings.”

“Carryout to the Marriott…”

The guys, including a taxicab driver named Mark Stauffer, who leans against his orange Ramona Cab car, all laugh. Mark’s been stationing his cab here for 30 years.

“If you get somebody to smile, it breaks the ice,” Rudy says.

None of the ferry passengers takes the bait. “When the J-1s leave in September, then I start prospering,” Matt says. “Except, then, right around Christmastime, here come the J-1s from South America. It started with a trickle, maybe 10 Brazilians, like four years ago. Now it’s climbed to 150, from Colombia, Chile, all over South America.”

“Why do they let so many [foreigners] come?” says Rudy, who is himself relatively new to the game. “They should have a ratio, like two of us to every one of them. Not four of them to one of us.

“This is what I do to eat, pay my bills. I mean, I know this is America: This is the melting pot. People are going to come from everywhere. Still though, man, when people are just out here visiting and they’re taking [our jobs], it really hurts.”

“I feel bad for the people who have to deal with it, like the tourists,” says Mark. “Some don’t even speak English. They give tours when they’re not even from here. Me, I’m San Diego born and raised. I speak English. I consider myself a professional conversationalist. Most of the rides go to Seaport Village, the Star of India, Gaslamp, ballpark, tours. It’s a fun way to get somewhere. If it was up to me, I’d just let Americans be out here. [The foreigners] trick people. They say ‘$10.’ Then they get to the destination, and they say, ‘Oh, I meant $10 a person.’ That gets us all a bad name.”

Farther down the Embarcadero, I again run into Abdullah Akan, the Kurdish student, riding toward the Star of India, trolling for business. In the daylight, I notice that his left arm has been badly burned. “That happened when I was a child, and the Turkish army attacked our village,” he says. “They came through in armored cars and started machine-gunning our houses. My mother and I lay down on the floor. A pot of boiling water was knocked down by the bullets.” He says how lucky people are here in America. How everything is done by machines. “Traffic is safer. In Turkey, every ten minutes there’s a crash.” And, he says, nobody here has to spend three months going up into the mountains to collect wood (for fires to heat the house) for the next winter. “It’s very different here, about life, arts, culture. But the big shock for me was seeing many homeless people. At home, if somebody has a problem, everybody in the community helps them. Here, people are harder than I believed.”

How do American pedicab drivers treat him? “Some, not good. An American driver in front of the Hyatt said, ‘I have worked here five years. All Turkish drivers need to go home.’ We have to wait in a line for the customers, while they go straight to the front and take customers. Every time.”

He points to the old sailing ship. “Here, I took from the Star of India four people. The American rider said to my passengers, ‘Just give him a dollar.’ I took them four blocks, and they gave me just one dollar. I didn’t say anything.”

A motorcycle cop rumbles past. I notice he’s been speaking to some of the American pedicab guys at the ferry wharf. I’m on my bike, so I pedal like crazy after him and ask if we can talk. “Come under the pine trees where it’s cool,” he says.

Officer Scott Thompson says that, yes, he knows quite a bit about pedicab issues because he’s one of two officers who have been working out the regulations the city council is considering to clear up some of the problems.

“It’s not an easy issue,” he says. “Bicycle laws are in place, but the vast number of pedicabs makes them difficult to enforce. My partner and I have been working on the new ordinance for two years. The aim is to create laws that are easier to enforce, to reduce the numbers, and to bring pedicab [laws] more into line with those for cars.”

And, yes, he interviewed Sukru Safa Cinar, the Turkish student whose passenger died. “He was devastated when he found out the woman died. He was a good student, hoping to do his master’s here in the U.S. He was clearly remorseful. He in no way anticipated that she would fall out of his cab, hit her head, and die. Witnesses said he was moving from left to right. I think he was probably just showing the ladies a good time. Pedicab owners are required to maintain $1 million in insurance. I’m sure they [the company he leased his pedicab from] will be hearing from the family. The pedicab did not have seat belts.”

So are foreign students the root of the town’s pedicab problems? “They’re causing competition, that’s for sure,” he says. “And the foreign student may not have the pride in the industry that [local drivers] do. Someone who’s only here a few months may be more likely to gouge the consumer pricewise because they’re leaving. Unlike these guys.” He points to where Matt and Rudy and others are still gathered at the ferry landing. “They have to keep their reputation.”

There’s no way the city can set quotas for foreign students, Thompson says. “That’s an immigration issue. The State Department is currently allowing J-1 students to operate pedicabs. So we can’t step in.”

Thompson says the recently passed city ordinance, which he helped to craft, should help. “Hopefully, the ordinance moves forward. Then a lot of things begin to take effect — the licensing of the pedicabs, equipment requirements, and vehicle inspections — in order for them to get their permits next year, starting in January. The number hasn’t been solidified, but pedicab-leasing companies would be required to reduce their fleet by certain percentages.”

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marko Sept. 9, 2009 @ 2:52 p.m.

make them have a CA drivers licenses, and make them be bonded/insured. that would fix all the problems.


jerome Sept. 9, 2009 @ 4:59 p.m.

hmmm? anger, racism,threatening physical harm,all very rare it seems to this local resident,the economy is on a slow road up its been down so long no one knows whats UP. but yep, maybe to many pedicabs, but the market will balance itself>thats american capitalism. but there is no subsitute for time, the word will get out and less out of country drivers will be the reality. why confuse the issue with hate,hate a hater and your a hater,oh god when will we learn. my experience>>>>GOT OFF THE FERRY,WALKING TO SEAPORT VILLAGE LIMPING WITH MY CANE NO EXTRA $ FOR A RIDE; I HEAR "HEY SIR WHERE YA GOIN", I SAY SEAPORT VILLAGE BUT I'M BROKE,HE REPLYS GET IN ITS ON ME> NOW THATS THE SAN DIEGO I SEE .........THEN OUTTA THE BLUE I SEE MY DAUGHTER back from her hike from harbor island she says hey dad where ya goin, she hops in >FREE off we go chillaxe peeps you only see whats inside you.........


CaptainSanDiego Sept. 9, 2009 @ 5:15 p.m.

I took the ferry to work on Coronado every day for three years. So I saw how the Pedicab operators operated. Some were okay but some were obnoxiously rude. A tourist who ignores them or just says, "No" is usually given a parting shot. I heard, "Well, F-ing walk then," more than a few times. There is a fine line between hawking and hassling and some of these guys cross that line . . .


basilisk Sept. 10, 2009 @ 1:10 a.m.

What an intersting story. I only go downtown if I have to. So this opened my eyes,



Ponzi Sept. 11, 2009 @ 1:44 p.m.

This issue could be easily solved by eliminating the fraud in the J-1 Visa system and in particular by attacking the pedicab loophole that is being abused.

These “scholars” that are issued a J-1 Visa are sponsored by an employer. They are suppose to be getting additional education as an “intern” or “trainee.“

The J-1 sponsor is suppose to “formulate a training outline that provides a clear definition of the internship/training goals and describes the proposed tasks“ and submit that to the U.S State Department.

The spirit of the J-1 program is to allow scholars to work and study in the U.S. and immerse in the culture, language and work ethic.

The program is NOT for WORK alone. It sounds like, in the case of these foreign pedicab employees, the J-1 Visa is being highly abused.

The program is not for them to come over to the U.S. and work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week to save money. It is an educational and cultural Immersement and study/learning program.

If driving pedicels is all these people are doing, the simple thing is to report all of them to the U.S. State Department.

You can’t convince me that working as a pedicab driver is “learning” or a “trainee” for any scholarly pursuit. These folks probably never even visit a museum at Balboa Park!

“We gave $1200 for this form,” says Vahap, pulling out his J-1, the 120-day student work-study application. “But they are free.”

These are foreign scholars? They can’t use their own embassy to find out this is a free application? Why? Because I’m betting many are not even college students and many others pay to get the sham paperwork riddled with baloney about learning and pushed through the State Department.


Ponzi Sept. 11, 2009 @ 1:48 p.m.

And if what I posted doesn’t seem to resonate as true, then why doesn’t every Mexican student get a J-1 Visa and work as a pedicab or other menial job all over the US?

There is fraud in the system and it’s being perpetuated by the pedicab owners who are recruiting these “students” who are using the J-1 for a purpose it is not intended to be used.

If the San Diego City Council, the citizens, the U.S. citizen pedicab operators, to anyone else annoyed by them should be filing complaints with the U.S Department of State and their numbers will evaporate.


Ponzi Sept. 11, 2009 @ 2 p.m.

This is from the Dept of State website: (1) Ensure that the participant has sufficient financial resources to support him or herself during his or her search for employment;

(2) Provide the participant with pre-departure information that explains how to seek employment and how to secure lodging in the United States;

(3) Prepare and provide to program participants a roster of bona fide job listings equal to or greater than the number of participants for whom pre-arranged employment has not been secured; and,

(4) Undertake reasonable efforts to secure suitable employment for any participant who has not found suitable employment within one week of commencing his or her job search.

(e) Participant compensation. Sponsors shall advise program participants regarding Federal Minimum Wage requirements and shall ensure that participants receive pay and benefits commensurate with those offered to their American counterparts.

(i) Unauthorized activities. Program participants may not be employed as domestic employees in United States households or in positions that require the participant to invest his or her own monies to provide themselves with inventory for the purpose of door-to-door sales.

They ar enot to invest their own money, which is like being an entrepreneur. But they are "renting" a pedicab which is like buying inventory. Perhaps this rule needs to be clarified.

Also, they are suppose to have enough money to get through their stay, so if they are complaining baout not having enough money to return home, they have also violated the rules.


whyigotahaveid Sept. 14, 2009 @ 8:16 p.m.

why anytime things get tuff n competitive, the whites right away wanna blame the immigrants . they already have the advantage , most businesses are white owned and hire their own. whites usually wont do any type of labor. so its natural that the applicants for these type of jobs are flooded with eager happy to work immigrants that think the $ is great. i saw something interesting today, white men working the carwash . now that has to be the sign of the times.


Ponzi Sept. 15, 2009 @ 12:23 p.m.

whyigotahaveid, nothing like some racists comments about whites.

My point is that what they are doing is illegal. They are using the J-1 visa just for work and that is not what the visa is supposed to be used for. It is for learning, an internship, cultural emersion and study. Renting a bike and working 12 hours a day is not what the visa is intended for.

If the local authorities would address the situation with the Department of State, the situation would hopefully go away. There are plenty of "white" kids doing menial jobs and many would gladly do the pedicab work. I would much rather see our own citizens, whatever color, sex, or other label they be, get those jobs. Plus the issue is of "over-capacity" so sending half of them home would begin to fix the problem as well.


SDaniels Sept. 15, 2009 @ 2:53 p.m.

whyigota, you make some valid points, but they a little off mark for this situation, and it is best-- as always-- to look ahead at what we can do to fix it. Ponzi's got this issue sewn. Thanks!


whyigotahaveid Oct. 1, 2009 @ 9:35 p.m.

i like these comment forums, cuz i can read the views of others . mine may not be right but i take into account yours. and learn. i used to be very closed minded and racist. but now i see it aint all yall . and it aint all us. but a beautiful rainbow sherbert of disfunction that is our world. so please dont take offense. and i wont take any also. lets have a beer !


CuddleFish Oct. 1, 2009 @ 9:46 p.m.

but a beautiful rainbow sherbert of disfunction that is our world

LOL I love that! Thanks, why, very good. :)


SDaniels Oct. 1, 2009 @ 11:23 p.m.

I agree, and would definitely raise a toast to whyigota's phrase.


whyigotahaveid Oct. 2, 2009 @ 10:44 a.m.

ha ha, i knew i wasnt crazy . i dont care what that Dr. sez


MountainMike Nov. 7, 2016 @ 10:46 a.m.

In 2004 I was driving an electric cab called Mini Roadsters (they were golf carts modified to look like a roadster). The pedicabs would make fun of us by calling us "clown cars" and yelling, "clown cars suck!". All the instances but one of disrespect were from pedicabs.


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