Regulating Pedal Car Businesses

A Pedal Car Business on Lyndale Avenue South

Minneapolis is in the process of determining the licensing rules that govern pedal car businesses. (“Pedal pub” is one example, but others are popping up.)

It’s opportunity for the city, bike advocates, and pedal car entities to shape the rules from the ground up. With that in mind, Patrick Hilden from the city licensing office shared a draft at a recent subcommittee meeting of the Bicycle Advisory Committee I attended.

There are many issues to be resolved. Two examples are: at seven feet wide, should they travel in the bike lane or a regular lane? Moving at speeds of 5 mph, should they be restricted from certain roads during rush hour? These businesses have proved both popular and controversial. For example, the city has received noise complaints when the vehicles travel through residential neighborhoods to arrive at a bar (e.g. Mayslack’s in Northeast).

Sarah Frakes, a representative from Traveling Tap, gave her input as did the committee. As a proprieter, Frakes expressed concern that some of the proposed licensing regulations restricted their ability to grow and compete. On the example above, she indicated their enterprise would never travel on busy nodes during peak hours as it would put customer safety at risk, and said drivers should be trusted to make good judgement instead of codifying it into the regulations. A few days later, on Saturday night at 7:15 p.m., I spotted a competitor to Traveling Tap on Lyndale avenue South and 22nd street. While not rush hour, it was a busy street and a busy time of day. Did the driver make good judgement?

At any rate, the subcommittee felt these businesses are good for the city and agreed further discussion should be had. It will continue tonight at the full Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting, where the following areas of the proposed regulations will be discussed:

The BAC supports amending Minneapolis ordinances to license commercial pedal car businesses operating in the city. Based on the proposed language reviewed on June 21, the committee noted that the following items are worthy of further thought and consideration:

306.10 Definitions

The definition of street may need to be clarified to ensure that commercial pedal cars are allowed to operate on county and state roadways within the city (e.g. Franklin, Washington, Central).

306.70 Insurance requirements.

The minimum amount for general liability insurance could be increased to $2,000,000 without imposing an undue burden on operators.

306.90 Establishment of designated routes/306.100 Temporary routes

Requiring preapproved routes is a poor approach to regulating where commercial pedal cars may travel.  A “driver judgment” policy or a policy outlining specific streets that are restricted is preferred by the committee.

306.110 Hours of operation

This language is inconsistent with what is allowed for pedicabs and limousines/party buses operating in the city. A policy targeted towards minimizing disturbance of residential neighborhoods would be a better approach. Also, downtown rush hour restrictions should be deleted and replaced with street-specific rush hour restrictions (e.g. Nicollet Mall, Marquette Ave., 2nd Ave. S, etc.).

306.130 Operating restrictions and conditions

The committee supports adding a subsection restricting the use of bike lanes by commercial pedal cars.

(g) Change “valid driver’s license” to “valid identification”

(r) Ensure Metro Transit’s bus operations are not disrupted. Adding street-specific rush hour restrictions (e.g. Nicollet Mall, Marquette Ave., 2nd Ave. S, etc.) may be a solution.

306.140 Vehicle safety and equipment standards

(4)d. This language needs to be specified to match the characteristics of commercial pedal cars (e.g. commercial pedal cars do not have “spokes”). A broader requirement for reflective panels would be a sufficient approach.

306.150 Advertising on commercial pedal cars.

It is unclear what type of advertising is restricted. Commercial pedal cars should be allowed the same advertising opportunities as other vehicles.

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