Visalia pedicab service dead in its tracks

(Rigo Moran)

After being presented to Visalia’s city council, a pedicab service proposed by a local brewery owner has fizzled out due to lack of a motion from the council

VISALIA – A proposal to introduce pedicabs, complete with brewery stops, in Visalia hit a dead end at the latest city council meeting. However, before they made any decisions, council was given a brief rundown on what such an ordinance would entail, as well as an update on information they previously requested.

The implementation of pedicabs was first proposed by Craig Hartman — a local business owner who hopes to bring his pedicab to Visalia — and went on to be discussed in length during the Nov. 6 public meeting, where it “died” after no one on the council made a motion for drafting the ordinance required to implement the service.

Hartman’s proposal was initially presented to the city council during a work session in August, who then asked city staff to seek the input of members of the community. On Sept. 19, the proposal was presented to various city stakeholders and downtown business owners, who were “very supportive” of the idea according to Operations Division Captain Luma Fahoum.

“The contents of the ordinance could (include restrictions such as) permit issuance, vehicle requirements and route requirements,” Fahoum said. “Alcohol consumption — although not recommended — could be allowed at your (the council’s) direction.”

While Hartman’s core business model relies on alcohol service, which cannot be directly sold by the pedicab operators according to the state vehicle code, the council took issue with what the allowance of alcohol may entail.

“If they’re drinking on the cart, how is that different from just drinking and walking around downtown,” said Vice Mayor Taylor. “I know right now, that’s against the law; (you can’t) just walk around Main Street and be drinking openly.”

According to one of the staff members leading the presentation, the council would be able to make an exception to the aforementioned law to allow alcohol to be consumed by the riders of the pedicabs. However, drinks would be limited to two bottles per rider and would bar anyone under the age of 21 from riding in the carts.

However, another major concern, voiced primarily by Councilmemebr Steve Nelson, was that of enforcement; specifically, how the city could ensure that the pedicabs only load and unload at designated locations, and keep those using the service from taking their alcohol onto the streets.

“In this instance, the pedicab driver — if (we allowed) alcohol — has to tell the person that they can’t get off the pedicab and drink,” Nelson said. “In a perfect world, that sounds great, but we don’t live in a perfect world.”

Nelson went on to say that, should alcohol be allowed, the city will likely end up with people walking around drinking and leaving their bottles behind because “no one’s going to say ‘no, you can’t do it’ (which is) not a good situation for downtown.”

Ultimately, a majority of the council seemed to be of the opinion that the implementation of allowing pedicabs on city streets with a speed limit of 30 mph and slower, especially with alcohol involved, would lead to more negatives than positives.

“It’s funny because we tried to get people off of bikes and drinking downtown (yet) we’re trying to allow both of them right here in this one ordinance,” said Mayor Poochigian, who went on to that after seeing pedicab services in other cities, he’s noticed that it tends to lead to drunk people yelling at cars; Vice Mayor Taylor also noted that the bright lights on the cart could further distract drivers.

While pedicabs may come to the city at a future date, Hartman’s proposal has died in its tracks due to no one on the council seeming eager to make a motion for drafting the ordinance. Even with the issue of alcohol aside, the council felt that the city’s streets were too narrow and implementing the service  would be more effort than it was worth.

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