Culture News

City of Scottsdale to Regulate Popular Nightlife Pedicabs

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Operators of pedicabs, also known as cycle rickshaws, had been under increased scrutiny by Scottsdale authorities after an accident involving a pedicab injured three people, one of them critically. Late Tuesday night, the Scottsdale City Council unanimously approved an ordinance putting stricter regulation on pedicabs in the hopes of increasing safety.

According to Scottsdale Assistant Police Chief John Cocca, the impetus of the new law was an accident on January 4 in which a cycle rickshaw carrying a pair of Kansas tourists in town for the Fiesta Bowl was hit by a drunk driver along Scottsdale Road near McDonald Drive.

One of the pedicab's passengers, 21-year-old college student Cody Clark, has been in a coma since the accident, in which he suffered severe head trauma. Phoenix resident Joseph Spano was arrested and charged with endangerment, driving under the influence, and aggravated assault.

Cocca told Jackalope Ranch that the ordinance was created in part to help reduce the possibility of such an accident from occurring again.

"What it was designed to do was provide safety to the operator and safety to the patrons that utilize the pedicabs," he says.

Under the ordinance, which goes into effect on May 8, pedicab operators and their rides (both of the three-wheeled variety or two-wheeled bikes hauling trailers with seating) are required to meet a laundry list of more than a dozen requirements in order to work the streets of Scottsdale's nightlife district and downtown area. Those who run afoul of the new law risk hefty fines and (for repeat offenders) the possibility of jail time.

Per the ordinance, which is similar to pedicab laws already in force in Phoenix and Glendale, operators must posses a valid driver's license and have a general liability insurance of at least $1 million in coverage.

According to Terry Gruver of the city's transportation commission, the license requirement is intended to keep those with a history of traffic law violations from operating pedicabs.

"It was described as a way to ensure a certain level of responsibility, that there are responsible people out there operating the pedicabs," Gruver says. "It was the commission's opinion that the ordinance in and of itself, as well as the insurance requirements, offered that level of responsibility. It was additionally described to us as a way to keep lawbreakers from operating a pedicab."

The law also mandates that those charging set fares for rides must also obtain a business license from city officials, although operators working for tips only are exempt.

Cocca says may not operate on roads with posted speed limits greater than 35 miles per hour.

It limits operators to two-lane and side streets instead of major thoroughfares (Scottsdale Road, for instance), with the exception of those with designated bike lanes. Combined with the ordinance dictating they can't travel north of Camelback Road, rides essentially are limited to Scottsdale's entertainment district.

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.