Saturday, August 2, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Ready for rolling rickshaws?

Today's news of a surprise, late-night SEPTA strike was accompanied in our pages by word that Philadelphia may soon be getting a serious fleet of Pedicabs, which are already a fixture in Boston, New York, San Francisco and Seattle. If you were one of the many people trying to shoehorn yourself onto a Regional Rail train today - or if you weren't even that lucky - you may have wished you could jump on the back of one of these oversized trikes and be whisked away.

Ready for rolling rickshaws?

ROB STUART / Evolve Strategies

It's completely a coincidence in terms of timing, but today's news of a surprise, late-night SEPTA strike was accompanied in our pages by word that Philadelphia may soon be getting a serious fleet of Pedicabs, which are already a fixture in Boston, New York, San Francisco and Seattle. If you were one of the many people trying to shoehorn yourself onto a Regional Rail train today - or if you weren't even that lucky - you may have wished you could jump on the back of one of these oversized trikes and be whisked away.

OK, maybe only 1.3% of you were thinking along those lines. But there are other reasons to take a good look at the phenomenon also known as "cycle rickshaws" besides save-the-planet rationales.

Among others, two brothers tell of being forced into exile by L&I...

The lack of pedicab regulation in the city had been a problem for local companies and for operators in other cities that wanted to set up shop here.

Ben and Tom Dambman co-own Chariots of Philly, a pedicab company that operated in Manayunk from 2003 until 2005.

When the brothers tried to expand into other parts of Philadelphia, the Department of Licenses and Inspections ordered them to cease operations until pedicab regulation was in place.

For the last three summers, they operated their business in Avalon, N.J.

"We want to work exclusively in Philadelphia - this is our home, and this is where we want to live and work," said Tom Dambman.

Seems like a good idea to let them work at home. But could pedicabs make a difference in city traffic? Ecologically we'd like to say yes. But how would traffic change if we started to see more than one or two pedicabs?

Despite their common eco-friendly underpinnings, pedicabs would seem unlikely to challenge the habits of public-transportation riders, what with their relatively high price. The most obvious industry that might logically fear the rise of pedicabs is that of carriage horses. The colorful, sometimes inaccurate Colonial tour guides compete as "novelty" transportation, have certain liabilities that pedicabs don't, and offer against that a sense of history - an Old City tradition dating back a full 33 years.

But for now, anyway, the costumes and clackety-clop are the draw right around Independence Hall, and if New York is any model, pedicabs won't suddenly knock that out. Outside of Manayunk, one could imagine pedicabs competing with taxicabs in and around that whole Penn's Landing / Society Hill / Independence Mall area, or perhaps University City, where quickly and safely navigating among often unpredictable crowds on both walkways and streets is called for - but then again, cities sometimes ban pedicabs in their most congested areas. A case could also be made for pedicabs concentrating in the parkway / Art Museum area. Hey, if it's good enough for the Segways...

At any rate, the regulation, once in practice, will tell the tale. How will licensed, city-certified pedicabs be identified? Will pedicabs be restricted to bike lanes on roads that have them? What non-car areas would they be permitted to serve? What kind of safety and/or maintenance rules will be in place to prevent the occasional fatal accident?

Council should look at these questions carefully, but now is the time to start looking and answering questions. Let's hope sometime soon the kinks get worked out and Philadelphia pedicabs can pedal us toward "Greenest City in America."

About this blog
Earth to Philly is a weblog focusing on earth-conscious technology, trends and ideas, from a Daily News perspective. We look at the "green" aspects of your home, business, food, transportation, style, policy, gadgets and artwork. If you have a Philly-related story, Click here to let us know about it!

The experts at Philadelphia's Energy Coordinating Agency answer your energy questions in our regular feature Stay Warm, Stay Green. Send in your question or questions to energy@phillynews.com.


Look for Jenice Armstrong to supply tips on green living as well as occasional columns on the subject of Green. She also blogs at Hey Jen.


Becky Batcha stays tuned for the here-and-now practical side of conservation, alternative energy, organic foods, etc. - stuff you can do at home now. Plus odds and ends.


Laurie Conrad recycles from her ever-growing e-mailbag to pass along the latest travel deals, fashion statements, household strategies, gadgets, cool local events and other nuggets of interest to those who appreciate a clean, green world.


Vance Lehmkuhl looks at topics like eco-conscious eating, public transportation and fuel-efficient driving from his perspective as a vegetarian, a daily SEPTA bus rider and a hybrid driver, as well as noting the occasional wacky trend or product. Contact Vance with your 'green' news.


Ronnie Polaneczky sees the green movement through the eyes of her 12-year-old daughter, who calls her on every scrap of paper or glass bottle that Ronnie neglects to toss into the house recycling bins. Ronnie will blog about new or unexpected ways to go green. She also blogs at So, What Happened Was...


Sandra Shea and the DN editorial board opine on any green-related legislation or policy. And we'll pass along some of the opeds on the subject that people send us.


Jonathan Takiff will be blogging mainly about consumer electronics - those things that we love to use and that suck too much energy. He'll spotlight green-conscious gizmos made in a responsible fashion, both in terms of materials used and the energy it takes to run them.


Signe Wilkinson draws the comic strip Family Tree, which follows the Tree family as they try to live green in the face of nattering neighbors, plastic-wrapped consumer products, and the primal teenage urge to spend vast quantities of money on hair care products of dubious organic quality.


In addition to these updates from our newsroom bloggers, watch for an occasional feature, Dumpster Diver Dispatches, from Philadelphia's original "green" community of artists, the Dumpster Divers. You'll learn about creative ways to reuse and recycle while you reduce, and about the artists who are making little masterpieces from what others throw out.

  • Dispatch #1: Margaret Giancola's rugs from plastic bags
  • Dispatch #2: Dumpster Divers in City Hall (Art in City Hall series)
  • Dispatch #3: Wild wood, New Jersey
  • Dispatch #4: Dumpster Divers award winners announced
  • Dispatch #5: From sweaters to colorful cuddling
  • Dispatch #6: Green artists retake South Street Sunday
  • Dispatch #7: Isaiah Zagar: He's a Magic (Gardens) Man





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