Image credit: members.parliamen.uk (CC by 3.0)
You may have recently heard that my Bill on regulating pedicabs is progressing through Parliament, and I’m delighted that the Government has decided to support it.
I’ve had literally thousands of complaints from local residents and businesses in my inbox on the issue of unlicensed pedicabs. Noise and anti-social behaviour issues are most common - I am constantly told they block roads, play loud music late at night, and they aggressively tout for business.
One constituent of mine said: “I have no choice but to listen to music hour after hour, day after day, and often until the early hours of the morning. They are left in situ, able to do it as they all know, the council and the police have no powers to stop them.”
Another said: “They have no regard even for a disabled person. My friend is scared to leave home alone, as she fears being knocked down not by a car, but by pedicabs.”
There are cases of rogue pedicab drivers operating without insurance, without training, or any safety checks on their vehicle. And they know they can get away with it. (I should emphasise that there are pedicab firms that undertake their own voluntary vehicle and driver checks and have the right insurance.)
In previous police operations, rogue drivers have been found to be in breach of behaviour orders, immigration laws, and in some cases they have held criminal records. This gives me deep concern for the safety of passengers, especially women. I am disgusted by reports of intimidation and allegations of sexual harassment. This kind of behaviour creates a deeply unpleasant street environment for women, who have the right to use this space in the same way as men - and they should feel safe in doing so.
Rogue drivers also exploit our tourists. Though some larger pedicab firms may choose to publish a fare schedule, they are not obliged to in London. In fact, only the other day I found out that two tourists were being pressured into paying £380 for a ride from Leicester Square to Stratton Street – a journey less than a mile.
Sadly there is very little we can do to resolve these issues at the moment. The problem is that pedicabs are currently defined as a ‘stage carriage’ (under the metropolitan Public Carriage Act 1869) in Greater London and thus do not fall under TfL licensing powers. They are the only form of unregulated public transport in the Capital, and thanks to this legal loophole, neither drivers or vehicles are checked or licenced. It is frustrating that this is an issue singular to London, in the rest of the country local authorities can, and do, licence these vehicles.
If successful, my Bill will help fix these problems. It will introduce some basic regulations which will bring pedicabs in line with taxis and private hire vehicles. It will mean TfL can introduce a licensing system for pedicabs which will set standards for operators, vehicles and drivers. It will make sure the passengers and the public, especially women are kept safe.
I’m pleased to see my Bill has the support of London Councils, TfL, the London Pedicab Operators Association, residents, and businesses of all sizes in my constituency. It has cross-party support, even from the Mayor of London.
This is not a Bill to ban pedicabs. Pedicabs indeed contribute to our amazing offer and experience in the West End. I welcome pedicabs as part of our Capital’s drive to become a greener city for us to live and work in, but they must be regulated just like taxis are.
Article by Nickie Aiken, Conservative MP for the Cities of London Westminster.