Levelling the Pedalling Field
Mr. P, the owner of a rickshaw company, came to our office to talk about an unfair application of licensing standards. In about 2003, the City changed the by-law that regulates rickshaw operations out of concern for safety and to prevent the drivers from hustling tourists. This meant many restrictions, including one that rickshaws could not be on certain roads at certain times of day, and there are about 50 reasons a rickshaw operator can get a ticket. Mr. P said that Municipal Licensing and Standards (MLS) was overly enthusiastic with enforcement. Mr. P’s company was the only one left — all his competitors had left because of the restrictions and fees, which were more restrictive than in any other city.
Then another competitor came on the scene, but their cabs were pushed by pedals instead of being pulled by torso. They got around the by-law by saying they had a different business model, giving free eco-friendly rides. However, they covered their cabs in advertising and asked for large tips from customers. Despite posing the same safety risks and potential harassment of tourists, the City made this group a part of a pilot program which allowed them to operate without a City license or proof insurance. The City did not ticket them for parking on the sidewalk, carrying their fares on restricted roads, or other things for which Mr. P’s rickshaws were ticketed.
MLS officers told Mr. P, “They’re not for hire or licensed. We can’t ticket them.” Mr. P felt that if the purpose of the by-law is safety, all rickshaws should be subject to the same regulation. He had complained to the City for years about this, but enforcement remained inconsistent.
What We Did
We called the manager of enforcement at MLS, who agreed there had not been licensing or enforcement of the competitor’s vehicles, even though the by-law had changed to include pedicabs in 2009. They said the enforcement should be starting, and suggested changing the standard operating procedure to be clear that any pedicab is subject to enforcement and needs a licence. The manager also said that if a company is in the business of providing rides to the public, they will be licensed and enforced. They agreed to make it a part of staff training before the season started.
The MLS manager spoke with the competitor company and explained that they needed to be licensed and follow the by-law. MLS staff now know there is no difference between for-hire and not-for-hire pedicabs.