The city council is working to bring a shred of consistency to the wild west of pedicab taxis with new (likely-to-pass) legislation that would mandate fixed rates based on time. The tricycled menace, whose customer hailing bike ring is a fixture in the city’s nightspots and tourist traps, has been known to sometimes push the limits of commercial decency.
One of the most famous incidents happened this August, when pedicab operator Savas Avci charged a Texas family $442.54 for a twelve minute ride from Times Square. A ride that otherwise would have cost by usual yellow cab somewhere in the range of $8-$10. What he did at the time, by pointing out hidden fees and only explaining the per person charge after the ride was, incredible as it sounds, perfectly legal.
Currently, pedicab operators are allowed to calculate their rates however they want. Common methods include a per block or avenue charge, though some have established zone pricing. Though these zones are highly individualized, and one sometimes suspects, malleable mid-trip. Operators are also allowed, as Mr. Avci did, to add sub charges at the end of a trip including the per passenger charges.
The Avci Incident has been referenced by council members supportive of the bill, among them councilman Dan Garodnick, who used the incident to spearhead the move towards tighter price controls within in the industry. “This legislation,” said Mr. Garodnick, “will make sure there are no surprises when passengers get their bill at the end of a pedicab trip.”
The legislation would require that the pedicab industry fix its rates based on time, regardless of the number of passengers. It also highlights accessibility issues for people with vision difficulties by mandating that all cabs also include some form of, what the press release calls, “audible payment technology.” A thing The Observer understands to mean a speaker.
“Today, we’re protecting consumers by giving deceptive pedicab practices the red light,” said council speaker Christine Quinn. “Our legislation will bring increased legitimacy to the pedicab industry and will ensure customers know what they’re paying to go on a ride—without being taken for a ride.”