At the beginning of the month I wrote about the pedicab regulations that DDOT instituted and about the desire of drivers to be included in the process. DDOT has consulted with owners and individual drivers, even modifying the rules in response to owner input. Nonetheless drivers still feel left out of the process and that communication has been lacking from DDOT.
The whole saga began in 2009 when pedicabs first started to appear in significant numbers on the District’s street. According to Alice Kelly, from DDOT’s Policy Office, DDOT was instructed by then OAG Peter Nickels to draft regulations to ensure that visitors taking advantage of this new mode of transportation were safe. The DDOT policy shop researched how other cities regulated pedicabs and created a first draft of regulations for the industry. These draft regulations were published on April 23, 2010, and DDOT received a number of comments from industry representatives as well as safety concerns from the MPD. The proposed regulations were changed based on the comments received and were finally republished for additional public comment in December, 2010. This was followed by a 30 day comment period, but none of the pedicab owners were informed about it and so no comments were received. The regulations were then set aside and not finalized.
In the spring of 2011, the National Park Police began to take a more aggressive and confrontational approach to dealing with drivers. As a result of this, and the ensuing media attention, Mayor Gray pushed DDOT to move forward with finalizing the proposed regulations and they did.
In the summer of 2011, DDOT staff met with pedicab owners and drivers to discuss the regulations. Drivers weren't organized at this time, but three did attend that meeting. As a result of that meeting, and other discussions, some of the regulations were modified. For example, the seat belt rule originally required a separate belt for each passenger, but after discussions with owners it was decided that a single belt, across the entire bench, would suffice. In another example, the regulations had originally required that drivers wear Class I safety vests at all times. But after DDOT staff rode bikes and wore the vests to the meeting in July, they agreed that the vests were too hot to wear on a summer day, and unnecessary. They wound up removing the vest requirement entirely.
DC Pedicab Operators Association organizer Oskar Mosco agrees that the meeting was productive in dealing with select items "that were either impossible or just didn't make sense" and he's appreciative of those changes, but "when it was specifically mentioned that DDOT must be meticulous how the regulations are expressed - because we just might have issues with the [Park Police] - the response was that they had no control of [Park Police]." DDOT however agreed to work with the NPS as they were in the process of drafting their own regulations and to ensure that they were aware of the pedicab industry concerns. DDOT has monthly meetings with NPS and the issue of pedicabs has become a regular agenda item.
On July 29, 2011, DDOT published final pedicab regulations and on August 5, 2011, issued additional Emergency regulations to address the pedicab drivers' and owners' concerns. In December 2011, the regulations were finalized.
However Mosco notes that "Owners and operators alike had no idea, other than that there was an expiration date, that the regulations would be [finalized]. We were led to believe that DDOT and industry officials would meet prior to any further rulemaking." Mosco also expressed concern that pedicab drivers were not asked for comment, but Kelly noted that "there were no regulations that were available for comment during this time."
Kelly says that DDOT will take another look at the regulations within the next month to gauge if additional changes need to be made and DDOT will reach out the Pedicab Operators Association and to all other interested stakeholders to ensure that the views of all parties are taken into account. Mosco says " The bottom line, operators are just asking for a seat at the table and a little bit of communication from DDOT."