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City Council Cracks Down on Pedicabs

By Jill Colvin | November 27, 2012 5:11pm

NEW YORK CITY — The City Council has put the brakes on pedicab price gouging.

The council unanimously passed new legislation Tuesday that will force pedicab drivers to install publicly visible timers and charge by-the-minute fees, instead of by-the-block fares.

The new rules, which have the support of the city's main pedicab industry group, will also force drivers to post fees in large letters and give passengers business cards, as well as prohibit drivers from charging extra-person fees.

City Councilman Dan Garodnick said the rules were meant to put an end to “Midtown’s Wild West,” in which pedicab drivers routinely scam hapless tourists by charging them as much as several hundred dollars to travel a couple of blocks.

“This legislation will make sure there are no surprises when passengers get their bill at the end of a pedicab trip," he said.

Today, drivers often charge confusing by-the-block fares, and then multiply rates per passenger   or add what they call "mandatory gratuities."

Laramie Flick, president of the New York City Pedicab Owners' Association, said he hoped the new rules would drive away scammers who have given the industry a bad name.

"A lot of these guys…I see them like lions in the bush waiting for victims," he said. “Once they actually have to do six times more rides to make as much, maybe they’ll disappear."

The council was also passed legislation Tuesday aimed at making yellow cabs more accessible for people with vision problems, by mandating that all cabs include audible payment technology.

“Until now, visually impaired taxi riders have had no choice but to pay with cash or rely on the cab driver to swipe their card because they cannot see the screen to touch for cash or credit," City Councilman James Vacca said.