“We don’t want to see fleets of licensed UBER-SHAWS roaming the streets plying their trade”
What started out as harmless pleasure, pedaling the odd tourist around the pedestrian precincts of Covent Garden, has now turned into a nightmare. Rickshaws are undoubtedly a plague on our streets.
Rickshaws, or pedicabs as they are also known, cause massive congestion, with London traffic queuing behind them, as they move at little more than walking pace on the main roads. They congregate in large numbers outside theaters, shops and restaurants, blocking entrances and exits. They also park on the sidewalks outside, forcing pedestrians to negotiate traffic, as they walk down the road to bypass them. They do all this while annoying each other by playing extremely loud music in the early hours of the morning and disturbing local residents.
Rickshaw drivers are also forced to charge exorbitant sums to recoup the high rental fees the operator charges them for using the bikes. It has been reported that the cost of entry to one of these death traps can be £500 from Harrods to Marble
Arch, and I have no doubt many members of the public have been scammed.
The LTDA has been campaigning to get rid of these rickshaws since 2012 and we continue to push for a ban in every meeting and forum we can. They should have been taken off our streets a long time ago when there were only 100 of them, but after policy makers ignored the issues for so long, there are now thousands now committing crimes in the streets. It was enough for someone to put their head above the parapet and act. Unfortunately, the authorities continue to largely turn a blind eye. There are occasional crackdowns, with fines handed out here and there, but only when things go really wrong.
The LTDA produced a report on rickshaws, which examined the dangers associated with travel and highlighted the need for a ban to protect the public. Safety test results included in the report warned that “any impact with a motor vehicle” was likely to result in “serious injury to passengers and drivers”. It also showed that a rickshaw’s level of braking “was well below that expected of a car”. Now things are worse. Many rickshaws are motorized and can reach speeds of up to 30 mph. Imagine if someone was carrying a passenger and was involved in a collision with a motor vehicle at that speed, it would surely have a devastating outcome.
do not act
Sadly, the ‘free market’, anti-bureaucracy, Tory government since then has consistently refused to act and TfL’s advice and hands are tied, as they lack the powers they need to act. Any ban should come from the top (the Ministry of Transport).
Now, instead of the ban we need, there is talk of the government introducing a bill to allow pedicabs. When then Transport Secretary MP Grant Shapps first suggested that it was “high time” to crack down on their activities and introduce new laws to control the “Wild West” of rickshaws grows without a license in central London, many professionals were outraged. . ” Licence ? Madness, they thought, is the last thing we want! I agree. We do not want to make them a legitimate and credible part of our transport network, with passengers being incentivized to use them.
But, if we can campaign for licensing conditions to be so strict that they deter individuals and operators from entering the market, then perhaps we can limit them once and for all. The idea being that we can make it so difficult to become a rickshaw driver or operator and so tightly controlled that it’s not worth it and there’s no money in it.
Nickie Aiken, the MP for the Cities of London and Westminster, who put forward these proposals, has campaigned on pedicabs for years. She is very much on our side and also recognizes that they are a scourge on our city. She, like us, doesn’t want to see fleets of licensed Uber-shaws or something similar roaming the streets plying their trade. But she acknowledged that there isn’t enough support for an outright ban and that proper legislation and regulation could eventually remove these dangerous and disruptive cowboys from our streets once and for all.
Better than nothing?
As it stands, I’m having a hard time seeing how licensing would even work. Should the individual driver go through the same licensing process as taxis, including completing a criminal record check and a tax check providing an HMRC code? Would they receive fines and penalties like other road users for violating traffic laws? Would they be able to use the bus lanes?
We still believe that a ban is the right thing, but if licensing is the only thing on the table, then in addition to pushing for a ban, we need to make sure that all licensing conditions Licensing programs being developed are so strict that it becomes nearly impossible to obtain a license, and it is no longer a viable business.
Article written by Anthony Street, director of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA). First published in TAXI Magazine.