Chicago officials to kick pedicabs while they’re down

In 2014, Chicago aldermen passed an ordinance that devastated the city’s pedicab industry, capping the number of licensed pedicabs at 200 and banning them from operating in the most lucrative areas, to name just a few restrictions. The Chicago Pedicab Association estimated that less than two months after the implementation of the new rules, pedicab operators’ incomes had plummeted by 40 percent.

Now, the office of Mayor Rahm Emanuel is aiming to crack down even further on pedicab operators, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Emanuel’s office wants to change the Municipal Code of Chicago to state the following: “A person engages in the occupation of a pedicab chauffeur by seeking or accepting a fee, an economic benefit of a donation or gratuity or any form of compensation [goods or services] for providing transportation to passengers in a pedicab.”

Mayoral spokesman Grant Klinzman told the Sun-Times that the change is intended to crack down on pedicabbers who transport people for free but encourage passengers to tip them, thus avoiding the licensing requirement set forth in the Municipal Code.

But if city officials are truly so concerned about pedicab operators’ lacking proper paperwork, they should consider making the licensure process less painful. Beyond its geographic restrictions and license cap, the 2014 ordinance requires pedicab operators to have a state-issued driver’s license for one year before they can be granted a permit.

And if Emanuel truly wants his city to become the most bike-friendly metropolis in the country, ousting bike-based services is a funny way to go about it.

Tightening the screws on Chicagoans trying to make a living in the transportation industry is the last thing Chicago officials should be worried about. After all, the city just experienced its worst year for jobs growth since the Great Recession.

As is the case for so many Chicago entrepreneurs, pedicab operators continue to face a treacherous, uphill climb at City Hall.

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