“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.
(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.