TV: Pedicabs are popular, but are they safe?



Posted on August 27, 2009 at 4:06 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 21 at 3:54 PM

HOUSTON - Pedicabs are a popular way to get around if you are in downtown Houston or at a major event, but many of the "bike taxis" don't have insurance which may put their passengers at risk.?


How safe are pedicabs?

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The pedicab is a simple bike and a trailer with room for two or more passengers.

There are many companies offering the pedicab service in the Houston area, but other companies are coming from all over to get in on the action.

"They come from New York, from Denver,?to come and ride their bikes in this city," said Lisa Bartel. "They say it is a free-for-all out here."

Bartel owns L and L Cruizers, which is a Houston-based pedicab company. She says the drivers operate the pedicabs for free. There is no set fare, so they depend on $5 or $10 tips from the passengers to make their time worthwhile.

In exchange, the passengers depend on the driver to get them to their destination safely, but Bartel says there are risks involved.

"You get on the cab, and the driver goes along and has a wreck. You have no recourse whatsoever. Maybe he's got insurance; maybe he doesn't," said Bartel.

In Houston, there are no regulations or permits required to drive a pedicab.

"You can bring any bike and any trailer into this city and ride. You can hire anybody you want to. There are no applications, no driver's license needed and no background checks," said Bartel.

Two years ago there was a high profile accident outside Minute Maid Park. In that pedicab wreck, the rider who had no passengers at the time was hit by a car. The driver claimed he never saw the bike.

That accident prompted city council to explore possibly regulating the pedicab business.

Some progress was made. They wrote a draft ordinance that would have charged a $150 fee to license the bikes and the drivers. The draft also required operators to have insurance.?

However, nothing has come of the ordinance since that time. But many pedicab businesses are getting together to form an association to lobby for regulations, like the ones that are already in place in Austin.

In the meantime, some pedicab owners like Lisa Bartel have taken out insurance on their bikes. Bartel carries $2 million of insurance on her pedicabs. She says it's not because she has to, but because she knows the risk.