Pedicabs take to streets … sort of

PHILADELPHIA. After years of lobbying in City Council, Philadelphia finally joined other major cities last year in allowing pedicabs or bikecabs to operate and the first cabs got rolling last weekend.

But try riding one after dusk. Or on Chestnut Street. Or in Old City where weekend parking can be an absolute nightmare. It won’t happen.

That’s because of the Streets Department’s tight, almost head-shaking restrictions for the three pedicab operators presently. After learning from cities such as New York, where pedicabs exploded with almost no regulation and had to be reined in, officials said they want to acclimate motorists and pedestrians to the vehicles.

“Where they’re restricted is going to be sort of a trial and error,” said Steve Buckley, deputy commissioner of the Streets Department. “At this point, we’ve given them as much as we’re comfortable with out of the gate. Going forward, we’re open to [discussions.]”

After the 60-day trial period, the city could allow night hours, Buckley added.

Tom Dambman, co-owner of Chariots of Philly, said the night-time hours, along with service in Old City or the stadium district will be necessary if the industry ever hopes to expand.

“It’ll be a struggle with the limited zones that we’re allowed to operate in right now,” said Dambman, who started operating pedicabs with his brother, Ben, in Manayunk in 2003. “Once we’re able to expand into the more popular areas, we’ll be able to take off.”

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