Wednesday, August 15, 2007


I just popped out to Chipotle a minute ago, and stumbled upon a sedately-moving demonstration by pedicab drivers rattling down Broadway. They seemed to be protesting another bout of authoritarianism from the powers-that-be in New York. At least one sign referenced mayor Bloomberg, but from what little I could google, their beef is with a cap on their numbers that was passed by the City council above Bloomberg's veto.

Most likely, though, Bloomberg sees them the same way I see them; as the equivalent of mimes - a reasonably attractive and faux-bohemian addition to the streets, and a useful means of amusing tourists, but in no way to be tolerated in overwhelming numbers. I don't hate the pedicabs anywhere near as much as I do 70% of cyclists (100% of those that use Prospect Park), but I do think they're the wrong size and the wrong speed to be cluttering up the streets of New York. The city's already a delicate balance between pedestrians/mass transit users and cars, and bicycles and pedicabs tend to disrupt this balance.

Bicycles, though, are single-user, relatively small and maneuverable vehicles, while pedicabs are not. moreover, they're a solution to a problem, that of pedestrians temporarily wishing to move at the speed of traffic, that taxis already solved without creating this slow-moving tween of a vehicle type. I'm not the biggest fan of taxis, either, and do feel that they should take the lead in making fuel efficiency gains, but they're moving at about the same speed as the other vehicles, and tend to keep the traffic flowing nicely.

You might think this approach is somewhat reactionary, particularly on the day that the city scored $354 million for a congestion pricing scheme from the Federal government. But the two are linked. Congestion pricing will only work if traffic can move freely around the city and the city's buses are able to take up the strain of additional commuters. While I've seen depressingly little evidence that the City is even thinking about how buses fit into congestion pricing, I'm sure that the limited environmental benefits of pedicabs go nowhere towards outweighing the disruptions to the city's streets they cause.

That goes double for party bikes


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