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Those stinky Tourmobile buses must really be hurting if they are sicking the police onto the pedicabbies.

This sounds like more of the same crap that a couple particularly self-important park police officers have been pulling for at least the last year; this incident just happened to bubble up into the blogosphere. I drive a pedicab for one of the other companies and I got a ticket and the very same threats my first day on the job last summer. (One of them even radioed in a fake call to HQ to get the pedicab towed and impounded, but nothing happened) I never had any problem with them after that as long as I followed the traffic laws strictly. Then again, it sounds like there may also be some new recruits whose boredom has motivated them to move beyond their usual duties of policing the popsicle vendors and start cracking down on pedicabs. We'll see...

The officer then told them they could not ride on the streets, only the gravel of the mall and the sidewalk boundaries,

This is way, way out of bounds. The NPS has very strict rules about restricting public access; to close a road to cyclists requires a rulemaking process, public hearings, publication in the Federal Register, and then signage at entry points. (I'm still mad that they didn't follow their own process when they closed the GW Parkway to bicycles a little while ago.)

I wonder if the real issue is not so much competition but that the Tourmobiles don't like sharing the road with pedicabs?

If you go to the linked article, it says the Park Police are citing 36 C.F.R. 7.96(f)(3).

It says:
(3) Taxicabs

(i) Operations around Memorials. Parking, except in designated taxicab stands, or cruising on the access roads to the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, and the circular roads around the same, of any taxicab or hack without passengers is prohibited. However, this section does not prohibit the operation of empty cabs responding to definite calls for hack service by passengers waiting at such Memorials, or of empty cabs which have just discharged passengers at the entrances of the Memorials, when such operation is incidental to the empty cabs' leaving the area by the shortest route.

(ii) Stands. The Superintendent may designate taxicab stands in suitable and convenient locations to serve the public.

So they can ride around the Mall with passengers, but to pick up passengers they have to wait at a taxi stand. If that's the rule the NPS is enforcing I'm fine with it.

There are a lot of issues/questions here that need to be answered before people start blaming NPS/Park Police for being heavy handed.

What are pedicabs?

Are they a free community service staffed by volunteers who own their own pedicabs relying on the kindness [tips] of strangers? Are there people trying to make money riding pedicabs? Is this primary or supplemental income for folks? Do the pedicab operators own these pedicabs or are they rented from companies like National Pedicab? Is National Pedicab a corporation or nonprofit? Are the riders employees of these companies, independent contractors, or 'other'? All other employees that get a portion [or all] of their income from tips are supposed to declare and pay taxes on these tips, but are still generally employees or independent contractors for the establishment they work for. By claiming that their service is 'free' but that they 'work for tips' seems like a not-so-veiled attempt to skirt employment and/or tax law.

This makes them either volunteers, vendors or cabs. If they really want to claim they're volunteers then I guess they can do that until the tax man catches up to them. If they're vendors then they probably need permission to operate on the mall. If they're cabs then they need a hack license. Perhaps the DC Gov't/DCTC can create an affordable/accessible/easy to obtain 'pedicab' license to promote the proliferation of them?

I think pedicabs are great, and the city should promote their presence/use, but it sounds like the current way they're run is a somewhat shady setup that places the pedicab riders in a crappy situation that leaves their rights to operate citywide as up in the air as their pay rate.

Yeah, the "just tips" thing struck me as a little flaky, too. Tips are income, and indeed are counted in minimum wage calculation. If you want to use your bike to make money, you are subject to the same kinds of restrictions as any other business.

As you may know, I am *very* suspicious of attempts to position cycling "outside of the law."

The applicable NPS regulation is right in the article:

Taxicabs, which include all non-interpretive vehicles for hire, such as pedi-cabs or bicycle rickshaws

What DC does or doesn't consider a taxicab doesn't matter, this is NPS jurisdiction. NPS considers a taxicab anything for hire as long as it is "non-interpretive" -- it doesn't have a tour guide. So under NPS rules a tow truck, a bulldozer or a hearse are all taxicabs, and you can't take your hearse down Madison Drive looking for passengers (or is that cargo?)

Is working for tips "for hire?" Absolutely. Whoever dreamed up that dodge got no legal advice.

OK, well let's just assume that NPS is following the law exactly as written and pedicabs are breaking the rules. The next question becomes this: Should NPS, in an effort to encourage green transportation, change it's rules for pedicabs? Maybe when the tour mobile license comes up for renewal - break it out or something?

Are pedicabs cruising for fares any better or worse than petro-cabs cruising for fares? Is walking to a taxi stand to get a pedicab any more of a burden than walking to get a petro-cab?

I'm with guez on this one, whenever possible same rules for bikes as other vehicles.

Not being positioned "outside of the law" doesn't necessarily mean that the same laws have to apply to bike-cabs as to car-cabs.

Laws have to apply and attempts to position biking, for whatever noble reasons, outside of those restrictions, should not be condoned.

That is how I understood guez's comment

A cruising pedicab is better than a cruising taxicab because it isn't polluting. But, I'm not sure if it's better enough or in the right way. If the reason for the rule is to reduce traffic, then it may not matter. If it's to protect tourmobile's monopoly then it might.

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