By Edwin Folven, 5/03/2012
Councilman Garcetti Calls for a Study on the Three-Wheeled Vehicles
The 10-block stretch between major attractions at Hollywood and Vine and Hollywood and Highland may get a little easier to traverse through a proposal that would bring pedicabs to Tinseltown.
Pedicabs, which are chariot-like vehicles where a bicyclist tows a two-wheeled carriage that can hold up to five passengers, have become popular modes of transportation in San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and New York City. Councilmember Eric Garcetti, 13th District, authored a motion last week that begins the process of bringing pedicabs to Los Angeles. The idea was proposed by members of the Hollywood Entertainment District and Business Improvement District (BID) as a way for visitors to quickly navigate past vehicle traffic that often crawls on Hollywood Boulevard. Visitors could theoretically park in one location and catch a pedicab to their first destination, such as a restaurant or theatre, and then use the pedicabs to later visit retail outlets or nightclubs, said Kerry Morrison, executive director of the Hollywood BID.
“We were in discussion with the council office [of Eric Garcetti] actually prior to Cirque du Soleil coming to Hollywood. We were exploring creative ways that people could navigate through the district, particularly linking the east side around Vine Street with the Cirque experience near Hollywood and Highland,” Morrison said. “We want to make it easy to get from the east side to the west side of Hollywood. We thought the idea had disappeared from the radar. I was pleased to see it come back up again.”
Morrison said a potential idea for the pedicabs is to have them run in a loop westbound along Selma Avenue and eastbound on Hollywood Boulevard between Highland Avenue and Vine Street, enabling passengers to get off at any attraction in the district. A concrete plan is in the development process, but Garcetti is supportive of bringing alternate forms of transportation into the area, according to his deputy, Julie Wong.
“We want to study how a pilot program would work, and the goal is to have something implemented,” Wong said. “A pedicab program would support pedestrian activity. People could come to Hollywood on the Red Line, get a pedicab and take a ride around the neighborhood with their family, get off and see some sights, and then get back on the Red Line.”
Tom Drischler, taxi administrator for the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT), said there are a lot of variables that need to be addressed with pedicabs. Like taxis, pedicab companies would have to be licensed, bonded and insured, and the drivers would have to be knowledgeable about all city traffic regulations. There are also safety concerns, including whether the passengers or drivers would have to wear helmets or seatbelts, and where designated pick-up and drop-off locations would be located. Drischler said the vehicle code does not require adults to wear helmets while riding a bicycle, but seatbelts are required in all vehicles. He added that the city would also have to determine how the regulations would be enforced. Passenger fatalities have previously occurred in San Diego, Seattle and other cities resulting from collisions with other vehicles or falls from pedicabs.
“We are not trying to put excessive bureaucratic obstacles in front of pedicabs, but there are valid safety concerns,” Drischler said. “We are assessing the steps we need to take, and to identify revenue streams to so we can do regulation.”
Ali Horuz, the director of VIP Pedicab in San Diego, said that city put regulations in place in 2009 to improve safety. Passengers are required to wear seatbelts but not helmets, and all pedicab drivers receive licenses and permits from the city.
“It’s the safest mode of transportation because the pedicabs go less than five miles per hour, so there is only a slim chance of getting into an accident,” said Horuz, whose company manages approximately 50 pedicabs. “Safety is our number one concern. It is safer statistically than riding in other modes of transportation like a taxicab or a trolley.”
Drischler said the city will examine regulations in other cities with pedicab programs, and will develop recommendations for Hollywood. If a pilot program is successful, the pedicabs could be expanded to other areas such as downtown or Venice Beach.
“We welcome the motion by councilmember Garcetti to put the focus on this,” Drischler said. “We are hoping we can get this study going in the coming weeks and have comprehensive regulations in the coming months.”