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NEW PEDICAB REGULATION: How will it impact the taxi industry?

The Government look set to bring in new laws to crack down on unlicensed rickshaws in central London.

Despite a Private Member’s Bill failing, the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, announced that a Government sponsored Rickshaw Bill will instead feature in the Queen’s Speech for the next session of Parliament.

A longstanding loophole which governs taxis and private hire vehicles allows pedicabs to operate without licences.

In the capital, Westminster City Council used anti- nuisance laws to prosecute rickshaw drivers. The rickshaws, often seen with flashing disco lights and sounding out loud music, are regularly in the West End targeting tourists, shoppers and theatre-goers.

Three rickshaw operators were recently handed fines worth more than £1,200 for playing excessively loud music late at night after a joint operation involving the council and the Met Police.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: "We will be introducing in this next session a law to control what I think is the wild west of pedicabs or rickshaw, particularly in London where there isn't legislation which accurately enables any type of proper licensing or control."

The legislation will likely force pedicab operators to obtain a heavily regulated licence.

What do the taxi trade think and what involvement have they had in this change?

“Rickshaws are one of the banes of London life, not just for cab drivers but just about everyone other than the rickshaw barons who rent out these death- traps, invariably to foreign students, and definitely for extortionate amounts,” said Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA) General Secretary Steve McNamara.

The LTDA first got involved in a campaign against pedicabs following several incidents of damage caused to members’ cabs by rickshaws. As the problems increased so did their involvement.

The taxi representatives successfully managed to turn the position of both Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson from that of initially supporting rickshaws, to that of calling for legislation to control them.

Steve McNamara said: “We bought a rickshaw and had it inspected and crash tested at the Transport Research Laboratory, the subsequent report and videos helping to convince Westminster Council and various trading and resident associations into supporting our campaign to get rickshaws banned.

“Our various promotional videos, billboard and newspaper adverts all gained support from road safety and pedestrian groups but our supporters in Parliament were unable to convince a Conservative government, with a free-market agenda, to legislate to ban rickshaws. We even attempted a private prosecution against several riders for plying for hire, only for a judge to decide that they were stage carriages because they charged individual fares.

“Fast forward 20 years and Nickie Aitken, the former leader of Westminster Council, and now the MP for the Cities of London and Westminster, brings rickshaws onto the parliamentary agenda with a Private Member’s Bill to license rickshaws.

“At this point we had to decide, do we support her bill, or do we hold out for the outright ban we have wanted for the past 25 years, realistically knowing we are unlikely ever to be successful.”

New regulations placed on pedicabs are likely to require DBS checks on riders. There could also be new operator licensing for the rickshaw rental firms, with a ban on sound systems and electrical assistance. Specific safety standards placed on the pedicabs would also be introduced and most interestingly set fares are likely to push people away from working pedicabs.

McNamara added: “Rickshaws do very few rides, paying £75 a day to rent a rickshaw necessitates them charging ludicrous prices to the few passengers they get, a fixed fare will stop the rip offs and, to many, the only incentive. We agreed to support the bill.”


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