Busi­nesses urge leg­is­la­tion to rid Lon­don of rogue pedi­cabs

Harefield Gazette - - NEWS -

LON­DON busi­ness lead­ers say they are fed up with rick­shaw driv­ers rip­ping off tourists and rid­ing on foot­paths to ferry pun­ters around tourism hotspots.

They are call­ing for ur­gent leg­is­la­tion to crack down on the West End’s “pedi­cabs” as a bill to reg­u­late the cy­cle-pow­ered rick­shaws is de­layed yet again.

West­min­ster City Coun­cil (WCC) has been push­ing for reg­u­la­tion for more than a decade, say­ing it has fielded com­plaints rang­ing from noisy sound-sys­tems to speed­ing rid­ers who park on foot­paths and rip off pun­ters.

How­ever, one rick­shaw driver, who backs reg­u­la­tion of his trade, says he fre­quently loses money from cus­tomers who run off without pay­ing.

Hip­po­drome Casino chief ex­ec­u­tive Si­mon Thomas is among cen­tral Lon­don busi­ness lead­ers back­ing MP Paul Scully’s bill for Trans­port for Lon­don (TfL) to get pow­ers to reg­u­late rick­shaws, which he says are clog­ging up space in the al­ready busy West End.

“This has been a prob­lem for years and it’s got worse, par­tic­u­larly with the ad­vent of the elec­tric pedi­cabs which can ob­vi­ously go faster with less ef­fort from the rider,” he said.

Presently, the pedi­cabs are con­sid­ered “stage car­riages” un­der 19th-cen­tury Lon­don Hack­ney car­riage laws, which in­clude pow­ers to pun­ish “wan­ton or fu­ri­ous” driv­ing, drunk­en­ness and “in­sult­ing ges­tures”.

Mr Thomas said the rick­shaws out­side his Leices­ter Square casino were pub­lic-hire ve­hi­cles that should face mod­ern reg­u­la­tions like black cabs.

TfL says be­tween 2015 and 2017 it recorded 16 in­juries in­volv­ing Lon­don’s pedi­cabs, in­clud­ing one pedes­trian be­ing hurt, 13 cy­clists and two rick­shaw rid­ers.

Mr Thomas said a friend had also re­cently been knocked off his mo­tor­bike by a turn­ing pedi­cab and had his leg in a cast for six months.

He fears it is only a mat­ter of time be­fore some­one is killed.

One woman re­cently com­plained to Hip­po­drome that she had been quoted £15 for a trip from Ox­ford Street to the casino and was taken down a back street where the driver de­manded £50, Mr Thomas said.

He added: “She felt very vul­nera- ble and paid him. As there was no li­cence plate, there was no way she could re­port him.”

Mr Thomas said pedi­cabs should be li­censed, in­sured and li­cen­ce­plated, their driv­ers back­ground­checked, and ve­hi­cles sub­ject to safety stan­dards, with fares fixed and dis­played.

One Lon­don pedi­cab driver, who only wanted to give his name as Peter, said he thought they had an un­fair rep­u­ta­tion, and that the city’s es­ti­mated 1,400 rick­shaw count was over-in­flated by politi­cians.

He es­ti­mated they num­ber around 250 on a busy night.

Peter said it was not only tourists us­ing the rick­shaws. He spends about half of his time cy­cling “Brits and Lon­don­ers” around the West End who en­joy see­ing Lon­don’s sights on an open-air ride.

“They see more, it’s anal­o­gous to a fair­ground ride – it’s a fun thing to do,” he said. “There is a cer­tain amount of dis­quiet about us­ing the Tube be­cause of ter­ror­ists and so on. Ba­si­cally it’s just good fun.”

He es­ti­mated a solo cus­tomer want­ing to ride be­tween Leices­ter Square and Covent Gar­den would be charged a £10 min­i­mum fare.

Peter said he was aware of over charg­ing and il­le­gal mi­grants tout­ing for jobs but added that “li­cens­ing would put a stop to that”.

He sup­ports reg­u­lat­ing rick­shaws, but thinks im­pos­ing fixed fares would prove dif­fi­cult.

“As a rider my­self I am very keen to see that we get li­censed and le­git­imised,” he said.

“We have an ap­palling rep­u­ta­tion and that’s jus­ti­fied and un­der­stand­able – but most of the peo­ple who do this are de­cent guys, they are not in­ter­ested in rip­ping you off.”

Peter said the rides, of­ten late at night, could be “very tough” and it was not just rick­shaw rid­ers who were dis­hon­est.

“There is an­other side to that story – we do get run-outs. Peo­ple jump off and don’t pay,” he said.

“That hap­pens more of­ten than the over­charg­ing. You do get a lot of fairly young kids who are mostly re­spon­si­ble for that, but not en­tirely. There’s also mid­dle-class, up­per­class peo­ple who do that too.”

Sut­ton Con­ser­va­tive MP Peter Scully’s bill would give pow­ers to TfL, in­clud­ing the abil­ity to im­pose rick­shaw road-wor­thi­ness stan­dards and speed lim­its.

It could also li­cence rid­ers and re­strict op­er­at­ing times and lo­ca­tions.

The bill has cross-party sup­port but has faced re­peated de­lays since it was due for its sec­ond read­ing in May.

Ob­jec­tions knocked it back to Oc­to­ber 26. That ses­sion timed out and it was put off again un­til late Novem­ber.

In his speech in the Com­mons un­veil­ing the bill this Jan­uary, Mr Scully said he did not want to ban pedi­cabs, say­ing they were a pleas­ant way for tourists to see Lon­don.

But groups of them fre­quently blocked streets and parked on pave­ments, while rid­ers shouted and played loud mu­sic, which posed safety risks, and an­noyed busi­nesses and res­i­dents, he claimed.

Mr Scully called for Lon­don to im­i­tate San Diego, which strength­ened its rules fol­low­ing the death of a tourist by forc­ing pedi­cab driv­ers to be in­sured, dis­play fares openly and en­sure pas­sen­gers wear seat­belts.

WCC has backed a Septem­ber re­port from the Task and Fin­ish Group on taxi and pri­vate hire ve­hi­cle li­cens­ing which urges Trans­port Sec­re­tary Chris Grayling to ur­gently in­tro­duce leg­is­la­tion.

Cab­i­net mem­ber for en­vi­ron­ment and city man­age­ment Tim Mitchell said rogue pedi­cabs were a “blight” on West­min­ster’s streets and called for Gov­ern­ment ac­tion.

He added: “Our res­i­dents can­not wait any longer.

“Without a change in the law good pedi­cabs will con­tinue to be un­der­mined by driv­ers who charge rip-off prices for noisy rides along the pave­ment, which is a to­tal waste of this fun and green form of trans­porta­tion.”

Peter (pic­tured) ad­mits that Lon­don’s rick­shaw rid­ers have an ap­palling rep­u­ta­tion

It is ac­cepted that many tourists love a rick­shaw ride around Lon­don

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