New rules would require Portland pedicab operators to drive cars and carry car insurance

Filmed by Bike 08-29.jpg

A night ride.
(Photos: J.Maus/BikePortland)

“Half my guys don’t even have driver’s licenses — in fact, I don’t have a driver’s license.”
— Kyle Kautz, owner at PDX Pedicab

Three weeks ago, a task force convened by Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick released a new set of regulations for “for-hire vehicles” like taxis, Lyft and Uber.

Also included in the new rules: pedicabs — but the rules for those seem to have been written mostly with copy-paste buttons.

The result: According to code now under review at city council, car-free Portlanders would need not apply for pedicab jobs.

The new city policy would require anyone applying to operate a pedicab to hold a driver’s license and to demonstrate “at least one year’s worth of continuous driving experience in a United States jurisdiction immediately prior to the date of the application’s submission.”

The second requirement, also included in the proposed taxi code, is presumably intended to keep very recent immigrants out of driving jobs, but the requirement of “continuous driving experience” would have more serious implications for the pedicab industry.

Moreover, every pedicab company must now hold “motor vehicle liability insurance” for each of its vehicles. (Local pedicab companies already insure their operators, passengers and vehicles with business liability insurance, but motor vehicle insurance falls in a separate category with its own premiums.)

The driver’s license requirement was first reported last week by the Mercury.

The policy also forbids pedicab operators from having a “felony conviction of any kind,” even as the city is considering forbidding most employers from asking about prior criminal records during the interview process.

Kyle Kautz of PDX Pedicab — he said he uses “Papa Bear” as his official job title — said the driver licensing rules as written would, if enforced, force him to drop half the people on his team.

“Half my guys don’t even have driver’s licenses — in fact, I don’t have a driver’s license,” said Kautz, whose company owns 11 pedicabs and contracts with 20 to 30 operators during peak season. “I have guys who have never driven a car before.”

Kautz does own two trucks to move his company’s cabs to out-of-town events like University of Oregon football games, but he said has sometimes hired someone simply to drive the truck down because so few of his colleagues drive.

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Kautz and another local pedicab company owner, Ryan Hashagen of Portland Pedicabs and Icicle Tricycles, said they found out about the new rules days before the council passed them after months of deliberation with representatives of Uber, Lyft, and local taxi companies.

“The pedicab companies and operators were told repeatedly that there’s no bother in showing up to this set of meetings right now, we’re all going to be included in a second public process down the road,” Hashagen said.

Random bike scenes, Portland OR

At the Mississippi Street Fair, 2005.

That may yet happen. But if it will, Hashagen and Kautz haven’t been told when.

Hashagen and Kautz both compared the proposed regulations to a set of rules proposed in 2009, but later dialed back, that would have required pedicab operators to have driver’s licenses and personal insurance policies, and also to carry fire extinguishers in their vehicles.

That process led ultimately to a city plan to draw up a separate section of proposed code for nonmotorized vehicles like pedicabs and horse carriages. The draft was approved unanimously by the city’s taxi advisory committee. But just before the city was preparing to take up those changes at the council level, Hashagen said, Uber arrived in Portland illegally and progress on the nonmotorized vehicle code project stopped.

Kautz said that he doubts his business or his operators are in immediate risk of being shut down.

“I really don’t think they’re going to enforce it,” he said. “They barely enforce half the laws.”

But he said that if these rules are in place during next year’s festival season, they’d disrupt a service that he said has “become a part of Portland.”

“If that happens, my guys are going to be like, ‘Nah, not working for you any more,'” Kautz said. “They’re not going to take the time to take that test. And there’s too many people in this city that don’t have driver’s licenses.”

The day after the first reading of the ordinance on Nov. 5, Portland’s recently hired Private for-Hire Program Manager Mark Williams said in an email to BikePortland that “we don’t have anything etched in stone yet, but we do plan on amending certain sections that are relevant.”

Williams didn’t respond to a follow-up request for comment Tuesday afternoon.

On Wednesday, PBOT spokesman John Brady said in an email that the council “will take it back up on November 24th. The second reading and vote is for December 2nd. That is the date that the regulations would become final.”

Correction: An earlier version of this post said the regulations had already passed their second reading.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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longgone
longgone
6 years ago

Oh boy, this will be interesting…!

Tom Hardy
Tom Hardy
6 years ago

Same old story. opposing polititions talking out of opposite sides of their head or opposite heads. This while not reviewing what was written by the themselves or their own staff.

J_R
J_R
6 years ago

The reason for such strict licensing and insurance requirements is undoubtedly because of all the fatalities caused by pedicabs. No, wait, that’s cars, what was I thinking?

KristenT
KristenT
6 years ago

Not all driver’s insurance will cover bicycle riding.

TonyT
TonyT
6 years ago

“The policy also forbids pedicab operators from having a “felony conviction of any kind,” even as the city is considering forbidding most employers from asking about prior criminal records during the interview process.”

Right hand meet left hand, please try to coordinate.

Eric Leifsdad
Eric Leifsdad
6 years ago
Reply to  TonyT

zero vision. How can the city’s plans and goals ask so much of people on bicycles when their actions are constantly making it so difficult to ride a bike?

LC
LC
6 years ago

This reminds me of the cop who griped at me for not having a valid drivers license when he pulled me over for running a red light while I was riding a bike and I showed him my state issued ID card..

Pete
Pete
6 years ago
Reply to  LC

I carry a waterproof pack with duplicate credit card, small bills, and a laminated photocopy of my driver’s license with my insurance info written on the back. I got pulled over once (for not putting my foot down at a stop sign, which I didn’t know was an ordinance in that particular city), and the cop said “that’s not a legitimate driver’s license!” I said that I wasn’t trying to pass it off as one, but I don’t carry my bulky leather wallet when I ride. I was lucky to have a reasonable officer who agreed that the law’s requirement was for me to establish my identity (which the credit card helped authenticate) rather than prove I had permission to drive a car while riding my bike. I could see where it could have gone differently, though.

Tom Hardy
Tom Hardy
6 years ago
Reply to  LC

like me a few years back when I was pulled over at the 23rd avenue light on Burnside for speeding as I passed Pittock mansion. The car I was following and the car behind me were boxed in when the policeman asked me for my driver’s license. I then asked for the ticket as a bragging ticket and mentioned to the officer that the lady in front of me and the man behind me would enjoy one as well. I told the officer my number and she said, “You arent a 29 something?”( only 6 digits and an original issue). The Sargent in the car was about to have a stroke laughing and he told the rookie that they had another call. I did not get a ticket. I would have framed it.

realworld
realworld
6 years ago

Wow, that’s just down right mean!

Stephen Keller
Stephen Keller
6 years ago

The requirement of a driver’s license makes a certain sort of sense. We all want commercial vehicle operators to know the rules of the road. Maybe the state needs a non-motorized commercial vehicle license standard of some sort to accommodate this emerging class of vehicle.

Some amount of continuous operating experience in a similar type of vehicle might also be a reasonable expectation. The idea being that you want people to learn to operate their particular class of vehicle without passengers before taking on the responsibility of passengers. I’m hard pressed, however, to see how automobile driving experience necessarily helps the pedicab operator other than in the abstract sense that there is some geographical overlap in the areas where the two operations occur. If the intent is “to keep very recent immigrants out of driving jobs” (as stated in the article) then perhaps a minimum one-year residency requirement would be a better means of expressing and enforcing that intent.

As for insurance, every business should carry coverage to protect themselves and their passengers. If the pedicab drivers are independent contractors, then they need the coverage. If they work for a company that owns the cabs, then the company is on the hook for coverage. Taking on the responsibility of passengers means taking on liability for their safety and protection. In today’s business and legal climate that means insurance of some sort.

davemess
davemess
6 years ago

What kind of numbers are we talking here? I’m assuming that the bike pedicabs are going to be a pretty small fraction of people these rules would hit. It kind of just looks like they didn’t want to make a new set of rules for such a small group?

B. Carfree
B. Carfree
6 years ago
Reply to  Stephen Keller

I don’t think any jurisdiction can legally have residency time requirements for employment or anything else. If someone is legally here, then they have to be treated the same as any other resident. If I’m not mistaken, this had something to do with the “sourdough” laws in Alaska that gave oil rebates to long-time residents and denied them to new-comers.

If that is the case, then requiring a year of residency in order to deny new immigrants these jobs won’t pass legal muster, but requiring a year of driving experience would. I’m not really happy with denying new immigrants jobs in the first place, but that’s another kettle of fish.

Stephen Keller
Stephen Keller
6 years ago
Reply to  B. Carfree

I didn’t know that, but it makes sense. I was thinking about the residency requirements for politicians and figured what’s good for the goose….

9watts
6 years ago
Reply to  B. Carfree

In this country what means do we have for establishing these residency or driving periods? Other countries make you register with the local authorities upon your arrival but we don’t do that here.

oliver
oliver
6 years ago

Can one rent a motor vehicle in which to take the practical drivers test if one doesn’t have a valid driver license?

Psyfalcon
Psyfalcon
6 years ago
Reply to  oliver

Yes, though I did it through a driving school. Regular places wont like that too much.

I had a car but it was fairly large, and did not have a brake the road test person could reach (Rear drive American boats have foot e-brakes and big transmission tunnels) so I got picked up in a Neon with an instructors brake pedal. Spent 20min doing parallel park practice, then drove to the test site.

Does Oregon have a specific number of supervised hours, or just days with a permit? I bet if you took 6 hours of lessons you could pass the test without ever driving a non driving school car.

Mao
Mao
6 years ago
Reply to  Psyfalcon

It was something like 200 hours of supervised driving or 100 hours if you took a driver’s ed class. No one keeps track or requires a list of hours though.

Ryan
Ryan
6 years ago

I didn’t see it say “motorized driving experience.” Did I miss that or are you guys just assuming it?

B. Carfree
B. Carfree
6 years ago

Old John Forrester insists that I’m “driving” my bike and his books go back to almost pre-historic times. Maybe that would count for something in court.

9watts
6 years ago
Reply to  B. Carfree

I’m sure they’d get you for ‘driving’ without a license though, so I wouldn’t go there….

Spiffy
6 years ago
Reply to  Ryan

I wish they would be required to use proper terms such as “operator of a vehicle” or “operator of a motor vehicle” instead of continuing to use vague terminology…

I don’t consider myself a bicycle driver or a motor vehicle rider when I’m controlling the vehicle…

PNP
6 years ago

The driver’s license requirement doesn’t make sense. Even children and recent immigrants have some understanding of the “rules of the road,” and as we all know, even licensed drivers either don’t know how to behave or ignore the rules anyway. Adults operating pedicabs know these things without the need to take a test. And the requirement for experience driving a motorized vehicle makes no sense at all for someone operating a pedicab.

What I’m reading here is a lack of common sense. It reminds me of the signs that were posted a few years ago near school zones requiring 20 mph “at all times,” as if driving past a school at 2 a.m. on a Sunday in July was somehow going to endanger school children.

If pedicabs need some kind of regulation, it should at least make sense in the context of the vehicle being operated and the conditions under which people use them.

Brad
Brad
6 years ago

How stupid. Let’s require cabbies to carry bike locks and mount triangular reflectors on their cars while we’re at it. Logic be damned!

Pete
Pete
6 years ago
Reply to  Brad

I can see the logic in requiring professional road users (especially vulnerable ones) to be tested in knowing the rules they’re required to follow, but I agree this wasn’t thought out well. (Plus it’s not like a driver’s license really proves one’s knowledge of the ever-changing legal landscape anyway).

B. Carfree
B. Carfree
6 years ago

This is yet another city staff error that would not have happened if city staff were required to ride bikes to work (disabled exception: they can take a pedicab, 🙂 )

Jason
Jason
6 years ago

Sounds like more sanctions imposed on cyclists due to the dangers of unenforced motor-vehicle laws.

El Biciclero
El Biciclero
6 years ago

^C ^V

This policy update seems to have been undertaken with the same amount of care and consideration given to all of our “bicycling” laws: careful placement of the cursor when copying and then pasting.

Mark
Mark
6 years ago

This goes back to two things. First, uber is working to restrict competition. They have a history of playing dirty and paying folks off. This is part of that. Second, this is the driving cabal rearing it’s ugly head. You need to have a license to drive a car on most public roads …not all. You do not need a license to ride a bike..

Ever.

Never ever.

Don’t let this copy see the light of day. This is a nice by drivers to get back at bikes they see as a threat.

Gary B
Gary B
6 years ago

“one year’s worth of continuous driving experience”

Wow, that’s a mighty big hurdle! Longest I can drive continuously is like 4 hours.

LC
LC
6 years ago
Reply to  Gary B

They have special robotic autodriver trucks now, maybe you need to get one of those to be a pedicab operator..

Adam
6 years ago

Clearly this just seems like an oversight on city council’s part. Hopefully they will amend it at the next hearing.

mark
mark
6 years ago
Reply to  Adam

How would any boss feel if this level of “oversight” crossed their desk?

maxD
maxD
6 years ago

Absurd! What is the intention of these regulations? To create obstacles for pedicab drivers but let any old fool rent a giant RV or moving truck is mind-boggling.

Robert Burchett
Robert Burchett
6 years ago

This seems like a good time to bring up the proposal that people be able to prove one year of continuous operation of a bicycle (;-) when they apply for a motor vehicle operator’s license!

Alan Kessler
Alan Kessler
6 years ago

If you put your foot down, the clock resets.

Bill Stites
6 years ago

I had the honor of being part of the first group of [6] pedicabs in NYC around 1992-93. Our biggest concern was getting squashed by the very powerful Taxi and Limousine Commission … one phone call and we were done. We met with some DOT folks and agreed to stay in Lower Manhattan, with it’s old cobble-stone and curved streets from the old days. This reduced our perceived threat to the taxi industry. Of course, those who came after us expanded gradually but consistently, and with this came regulation.

Pedicabs really are a special circumstance – being human powered and still a very small group here in Portland – such that they should have their own catered regulations. Drivers license? why?? Pedicab companies train drivers to avoid crashes, that is, damage to the vehicles and injuries to passengers, or they simply won’t last. Liability insurance in place is a big feather in their caps.

I think it’s reasonable to have some regulation for safety of the general public, but from what I’ve read here, the process needs to be revisited.