A threat to make hailing a rickshaw during a night out in the West End more difficult should be resisted, the London Assembly says today.
Although tighter controls should be brought in to stop them from cluttering up streets when theatres empty out, proposals to ban rickshaws from bus lanes and make it more difficult for them to park should be rejected.
In a report1 by the Assembly's Transport Committee published today, Murad Qureshi AM, its author, says: "Rickshaws provide a welcome and colourful, albeit, minor addition to the streetscape of the West End. And that's how it should stay."
First seen on the streets of Soho and Chinatown five years ago, rickshaws have grown enormously in popularity but remain unregulated. Few of the capital's 250 rickshaws are owned by their riders who are unregistered and not liable to the same traffic rules as road users. If a rickshaw is involved in a crash, there is no easy way to identify the rider.
But a Private Bill tabled in Parliament2 goes too far. The proposed legislation would give rickshaws, also known as pedicabs, a legal status and make them liable for using bus lanes, parking on double yellow lines, blocking pavements and other traffic contraventions.
The report argues, however, that excluding rickshaws from bus lanes would force them out of the relative safety of the kerbside lane and as well as worsen hold-ups and congestion in normal traffic lanes. While the Committee agrees with the proposed legislation that the vehicles should be subject to parking rules, Mr Qureshi says this part of the Bill should be delayed until Transport for London (TfL) and local authorities, particularly Westminster Council, have created dedicated ranks for rickshaws where riders can more easily and legally compete for hire.
TfL should introduce a system to license rickshaws, ensuring that their owners hold third party insurance and adequately train their riders.
Murad Qureshi added: “I am acutely aware of the problems that pedicabs do and could potentially bring to the streets of the capital but I do not think they should be banned outright. Pedicabs provide a useful short distant off-peak service ferrying tourists and Londoners between various stops within London's late night economy.
"Rickshaws can cause a minor nuisance, whether by blocking access from theatres or holding up the traffic. But the introduction of regulation, while welcome, should be relatively light so that Londoners and visitors to the capital can continue to be ridden around the West End on these colourful new additions to our streets."
Notes to Editors
1. The report, ‘London’s Rickshaws’, is available at: www.london.gov.uk/assembly
2. London Local Authorities and Transport for London Bill 2005, section 4
3. As well as investigating issues that matter to Londoners, the London Assembly acts as a check and a balance on the Mayor.
4. You can access nearly 12,000 answers from the Mayor and his officials to questions from Assembly Members on the ‘Mayor answers to Londoners’ database via the following link: http://mqt.london.gov.uk//public/fulltext-search-form.do
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