Small scale transportation,
like bikes, is becoming more popular and, it is increasingly realized, essential, all of the time, especially for use in crowded urban spaces. Here though, instead of a 21st Century masterpiece of a people-carrying vehicle, we have an enlarged baby carriage. Along with the outdated, Colonial Era, humans as draught animals, equipment, we have archaic laws to go with them, and practices as well. This type of vehicle has the capacity to be the most desirable, sensible, environmental, friendly, and appropriate form of short-distance urban travel possible, so it needs to be encouraged in every way possible, not subjected to crippling, senseless restrictions. While conditions vary in different places, needed changes in New York City include:
Small, clean, and quiet electric motors, must not be prohibited as a matter of humane working conditions. There is extreme, unhealthy difficulty in pedaling around with a human cargo that could easily reach 500 pounds. Preventing access to this modest improvement is inexcusable. Besides, in spite of their being prohibited technically, 95% of New York City’s fleet of these three-wheeled vehicles already employ them.
There is an unfair and unnecessary limit to two or three passengers. If they are to be part of the transportation system, rather than a service limited to deep-pocketed tourists, it must be made economical. (The Boston system is currently free-of-charge and tips are sufficient to keep drivers happy.) It is possible, given the additional power available with the use of these small electric motors, to sensibly and safely convey 6 individuals.
More than one person should be able to supply energy into the battery/electric system at the same time. There are many riders who might enjoy the opportunity to get some exercise while riding along. Fitness means healthfulness and needs to be encouraged. If rewards can be provided to those putting in the energy being used to move ahead, that would go a long way towards motivating this activity. The current prohibition was initiated as a way to prevent “conference” bikes with a half dozen riders from operating in a dangerous fashion but was mistakenly applied to all other bikes as well.
If we are only moving at 15 MPH or slower, standing should be permitted. It is fine in trains and buses that go three or four times faster. Appropriate handholds and specially-designed places to lean can provide for safe transport. In fact, many people would prefer to be somewhat upright, if given the opportunity, to feel stable and comfortable, and as an added advantage, it is economical of space. Security belts can be available and provided to those desiring one.
It must be unacceptable for drivers to get soaked or be frozen, while working, or otherwise subjected to dangerous and unhealthful conditions. They must be given proper cover and reasonably comfortable surroundings. People can not be regarded as “Coolies” or treated as draught animals.
There should be no limits on the lighting of the vehicles. Except for classic Yellow Cabs, no other means of transport is forbidden or required to look a certain way. Individuality and diversity need to be encouraged and owners should be helped to become positive contributors to our visual environment.
Not being able to pick up different persons, en route, prevents this service from realizing its most beneficial identity, as a form of public transportation that also does work as livery and for private purposes sometimes
Mandating a “Unibody” construction for pedalcabs makes no sense, especially since cargo bikes are utilizing all forms of trailers and, are now proliferating through every city. Their ability to lessen the burden of too many oversized trucks clogging streets is being seen as a potential boon to urban traffic flow, and that goes for pedalcabs as well.
Given that these vehicles are also a form of public service, and are relatively small and unobtrusive, they ought to be allowed to park overnight along suitable curbs in some selected places, to help enable their widespread and convenient use.
In order to lessen concern that drivers will rampage down streets using motors, a voluntary speed limit of 15 MPH may be agreed upon by all of those in the industry, to eliminate the need for regulation. The safe operation will be enhanced this way.
At least some of the fleet must be made wheelchair-accessible. One result of this would be the same vehicles that carry persons could use their design to also accommodate cargo easily and expand their money-earning possibilities and overall utility. Besides, it is the law that at least a portion of any fleet works to expand handicapped access. An entire fleet of wheelchair-accessible vehicles could be deployed citywide this way as a serious improvement to the current access-a-ride system.
One use of this opportunity, perhaps the most beneficial, would involve some vehicles plying regular routes during part of the day while providing a host of other helpful services. There are other informational and community-based assets that could be enhanced through the design of appropriate vehicles and the establishment of the resources necessary to train and deploy local entrepreneurs as specialists in public information regarding employment, real estate, education, and entertainment activity.
Failure to display rates properly should cause you to lose your permit if done more than once. Negotiated prices must be permitted but accompanied by a clear understanding of potential charges. The good reputation of this industry must be restored.
Eventually, there will need to be a great many more of these vehicles, preferably scattered throughout the five boroughs. This should happen once the existing regulations have been modified in order to make them as fair and beneficial as possible. This can be thought of as an important early step in the urgent need to re-frame urban transportation, down from the industrial to the human scale.