operator Ryan Hashagen.
(Photos © J. Maus)
Last week, we published an interview with Portland Cascadia Pedicabs owner Ryan Hashagen. In it, Hashagen shared serious concerns about new policies being crafted by the City of Portland’s Revenue Bureau that would bring pedicabs under regulation for the first time.
Hashagen told BikePortland, and many other local media outlets, that if the regulations went forward as currently proposed he (and other pedicab company owners and pedicab operators) would “cease to operate”*. Hashagen feels that they have not had enough time to digest proposed changes and influence the policy-making process.
Because the proposed new regulations involve licensing of pedicabs, the policy is being written by the city’s Revenue Bureau. On Friday afternoon, I received an email from the Revenue Bureau that refutes all of Hashagen’s allegations.
Hashagen has claimed that the regulations “do not address our safety concerns.” The Revenue Bureau says that the new regulations would require safety inspections of pedicabs along with criminal background checks of operators and “proof of traffic law knowledge” which could come as either a driver’s license or completion of a “Bureau-approved in-house training by the pedicab company.”
Regarding background checks, the Revenue Bureau wrote that they were “not willing to exempt pedicab drivers from criminal background checks considering that they are transporting tourists and citizens and safety is paramount.” In their email, the Revenue Bureau characterized Hashagen’s concern about this as stemming from the fact that, “several of his drivers would not have met this requirement”.
When I asked him about this today, Hashagen said, “Of course, I don’t want criminals on my crews”. But Hashagen feels the City is mis-characterizing his perspective. He says pedicab operators brought up a concern about a section of Code (16.40.080, Sec. E (1, A)) that says someone cannot get a permit if they have a misdemeanor “involving theft, robbery, burglary, assault, sex crimes, drugs, prostitution, or weapons” going back 5 years.
Hashagen says those operators are young and that some of them have midemeanors for Minor In Possession of alcohol and that one operator got caught shoplifting for food when he first moved to Portland, “because he was broke”.
The proposed regulations initially required a driver’s license, but the city says they removed that requirement after hearing feedback from pedicab industry reps that many operators didn’t have one.
Hashagen has also said that the new regulations are “purely focused on generating revenue for the revenue bureau.” In response, the City summed up the fees — $25 for drivers, $25 per pedicab, $100 for a pedicab company, and so on — which they say “amounts to approximately 14 cents per day”.
(By comparison, permit fees for sedan drivers are: $100 for drivers, $225 per vehicle and $500 per company.)
“The City agreed to modify every section that he had concerns about with the exception of his request that we remove criminal background checks for drivers, since several of his drivers would not have met this requirement.”
— from the Revenue Bureau’s email response to Ryan Hashagen’s allegations
At $25 per pedicab operator, the Revenue Bureau says they will “actually lose money” after expending the staff hours and resources to conduct all the background checks, skills tests, take permit photos, and so on. They also pointed out that the permit price does not take into account the resources they’ll need to enforce the permits and/or make random checks.
When asked about this today, Hashagen said he has no problem with the permitting fees. What he’s concerned about are the fines for “driver conduct” that are being proposed. A $500 fine for “being discourteous to a passenger” is being proposed and Hashagen says he’s worried that this will compromise his driver’s ability to “establish a safe space [in their pedicab] through assertiveness”.
Another allegation made by Hashagen was that the City had not “done their homework” by talking with existing stakeholders. To counter that allegation, the City detailed their involvement with pedicab business owners dating back to October 2008. At that time, they say Casey Martell of PDX Rose Pedal Pedicabs approached them and said he wanted to set up a meeting with the Revenue Bureau. “City staff agreed to attend the meeting,” they wrote in an email to me Friday, “but Mr. Martel did not set one up.”
The City also outlined that they have held eight public workshops and monthly Revenue Board meetings and that all the information has been posted on the Bureau’s website and emailed to all parties.
However, Hashagen still maintains that he and others have not been adequately informed and included in the process, especially compared to other stakeholders like limousine and taxi drivers. He says the eight public workshops were well attended by taxi, towncar, and shuttle operators but that “we had no idea this was going on.”
As for Hashagen’s claim that the City wanted pedicab operators to “have pollution control devices and fire extinguishers”, the City says he simply misread the proposed Code and that they were, “not mandating that new equipment be installed”.
Hashagen has also publicly alleged that the City wants to require pedicab operators to have auto insurance. The Revenue Board refutes this allegation. They say they are still researching how best to handle the insurance question and that they are still working to finalize the Code language (a fact they say has been made clear at meetings where pedicab company owners have been present).
The final allegation made by Hashagen in our video last week was that the Revenue Board would only meet once more at a work session “with no public comment allowed”. The Revenue Board says that allegation is also untrue. On April 15th, the Board is meeting for public input and discussion. After that meeting, they say they will issue a new draft version of regulations that “take into account these comments and discussion.”
I discussed the Revenue Bureau’s challenges to Hashagen’s allegations at length with him today. He remains very frustrated and says that the City is only “covering their butts and backpedaling” now that the story is out in the media.
Hashagen maintains that the first time he saw draft Code language was on February 22nd and that he was told back then that the City wasn’t even sure they would be regulating pedicabs. Hashagen then says he was not notified of any new proposed Code until about 10 days ago. He says he only had a few days to get up to speed and comment on 38 pages of new Code that impacted his business.
Now, he says, “I’m as involved as I can be now that I know this is all happening.”
Hashagen feels like the pedicab industry has not received the same level of communication and involvement with this process as other private, for-hire vehicle interests. “Why do these other stakeholders deserve a 2-year long process,” he wondered, “and we can just be thrown in at the last minute with no thought, no invitation, and no correspondence?”
Hashagen says the City has not done an adequate job including pedicabs because they have had their hands full dealing with myriad other groups that also have a stake in these new policies. “They just don’t want this [pedicab stuff] to be an issue…so copy and paste policy is what they’re doing. This is last-minute legislation for us.”
At this point, Hashagen is hastily organizing with other pedicab company owners to form a new association that can represent their interests. Because of his many concerns with the proposed Code, Hashagen wants the Revenue Board to completely exclude pedicabs from this round of new regulations and form a pedicab policy task force that would then work with the Revenue Board on any future policies.
The new pedicab association is set to meet this week.
[*Note: (4/14, 9:30 am): I initially reported that Hashagen said the new regulations would “kill his business”. Hashagen never said that. It was my mistake. I have edited the story and I regret the error.]