Want to operate a pedicab in Portland? Here’s the test you’ll have to pass

One of the Radburro pedicabs coming soon to South Waterfront!
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

“We want to incentivize non-emitting pedicab-type vehicles on our streets. So we have a much cheaper permit process for them.”
— Hannah Schafer, PBOT

Here’s a friendly tip: If you love Portland and are looking for a side hustle, or even a new business to run, it might be a good time to consider pedicabs.

According to the City of Portland there are no active, permitted pedicab companies or drivers in operation at the moment. Covid likely wiped out any of them that were around before early 2020. And with the post-Covid, get-outside-and-live-your-life boom that’s sure to come this summer (knocking on wood as I type that), lots of new carfree spaces and plazas downtown, and a nice new bike path about to open on Naito Parkway all along the Waterfront, we could be headed for a pedicab renaissance.

I’ve always loved pedicabs for urban exploration. They’re essentially huge bicycles with a couch in the back that allow almost anyone to enjoy the quiet, clean and calm experience of moving through the city without a car.

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(Two questions from the pedicab operators test.)

Pedicabs have long been a mainstay on Portland streets. In 2009, they were a big enough deal that former City Commissioner Dan Saltzman created a special advisory committee to oversee changes to the city’s pedicab policies. Speaking of which, City Council passed a raft of new pedicab regulations in 2015.

Last Friday at the Go By Bike birthday, Kiel Johnson (right) rolled up in a very cool Rad Power pedicab. Turns out he’s partnering with Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) for a new pedicab service that will ferry people around South Waterfront.

Kiel Johnson can’t wait to pedal you around South Waterfront.

He mentioned having to take a test to get his pedicab permit and it piqued my curiosity. I had no idea Portland required pedicab drivers to take a test!

After asking around I finally got my hands on the test and thought it’d be fun to share.

The 28-question test includes much of what you might expect, like basic traffic rules. It was fun to see a question asking what a sharrow is and what green bike lane markings mean. One question asks: “Where are the best restaurants?” and I can only assume the answer is “all of the above”.

PBOT’s Hannah Schafer was also nice enough to share a few more fun pedicab factoids:

  • Pedicabs are regulated through the Private For-Hire Transportation process that’s similar to what taxi and Uber/Lyft drivers go through.
  • All operators must have a permit, business license and liability insurance to be legit.
  • PBOT does a motor vehicle record background check on all pedicab drivers (I can’t decide if I should refer to them as “drivers” “operators” or “riders”).
  • Annual permit fees include: $100 for the company, $25 for the driver, $25 for the pedicab vehicle. These are about one-fifth what a cab driver would pay, and Schafer says that’s because they want to encourage low-emission vehicles like pedicabs.

If you’re interested in pedicabs either as an operator or a business owner, check out this page on PBOT’s website for more information.

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ivan
ivan
2 months ago

I’m confused; the two questions excerpted ask about knowledge vehicle drivers should know. I guess it’s good to know pedicab bikers have this knowledge too, but isn’t the most important place for this on the vehicle driver’s test?

Separately now I’m kind of tempted to spread misinformation that “you should never drive on green paint,” lol.

ivan
ivan
2 months ago
Reply to  ivan

Wow.

joel
joel
2 months ago

remember the training video you had to watch to get the card allowing you to bring your bike on trimet. i still have my card.

i think it was free, but i cant remember.
its rad that pedicabs are coming back-

Zachary
Zachary
2 months ago

They’re charging $150/annually and then have the audacity to say they want to encourage low emissions travel? What are there going to be: 20, 30, 40* pedicabs? PBOT probably spent more than $6k of staff time coming up with the payment process. If they really want to encourage pedicabs in the multimodal mix, remove as many barriers as possible, including the meaningless-to-PBOT-but-not-insignificant-to-a-startup-pedicab $150 fee.

*I hope to be proved totally wrong and there are thousands ready to hit the streets!

I'll pass you
I'll pass you
2 months ago

You ok bro? Seems like PBOT did the bike community a great service by bringing attention to this issue that seems to be brought up in every bike lane discussion…

I'll pass you
I'll pass you
2 months ago
Reply to  I'll pass you

No, you spelled your “point” out. I guess you missed my sarcasm… It’s amazing what the bike community can get indignant about.

Rachel Cameron
Rachel Cameron
2 months ago

Are the ones Kiel has motorized?

Rachel Cameron
Rachel Cameron
2 months ago

Oh weird, I remember a few years ago the city being adamantly against that when some of the established Pedicab companies asked about it.

JK
JK
2 months ago
Reply to  Rachel Cameron

https://www.portland.gov/code/16/40/030 read section KK
3 wheeled motorized pedicabs are not legal in portland

JK
JK
2 months ago

These vehicles don’t meet the definition of a Pedicab under current PBOT rules. If electric assist vehicles were allowed to operate as Pedicabs we would still have a thriving pedicab scene in this city. PBOT explicitly excludes electric assist tricycles from PVFH rules. see here the definition of pedicab(3 wheels human powered) vs quadricycle(4 wheels human powered and electric assist) https://www.portland.gov/code/16/40/030