Quinn: Speaker was chief sponsor of law that will crush "tricycle taxis."

September 18, 2007 -- THE City Council is throwing sand in the gears of the pedicab business. This week, its new law - passed over Mayor Bloomberg's veto - takes effect, severely restricting the tricycle-carriages-for-hire.

This industry is environmentally friendly, has considerable growth potential and makes the city more attractive to tourists. At present, there may be more than 600 pedicabs on the streets.

Under the new law, pedicabs will need a medallion to operate legally - and the city will make only 325 medallions available. There goes about half the industry . . .

Plus, each pedicab will need $2 million in liability insurance. That's a stupendous amount: Regular taxis need only $350,000 in insurance; horse-drawn carriages, just $300,000.

Oh, and by the way, the pedicabs will be subject to restrictions, at the police commissioner's discretion, that could keep them out of Midtown (their main operating area) in December, the busiest month of the year for the local-travel industry.

The reasoning of the anti-pedicab pols is as twisted as a greasy bike chain. Councilman James Gennaro, chair of the City Council's environmental committee, says pedicabs cause pollution by creating more congestion. Will we all really be better off when tourists get into a gas-guzzling taxicab instead of the back of a bike?

Speaker Christine Quinn, chief sponsor of the new pedicab law, explained her position this way: "The fact that they are human powered certainly makes them a clean-air vehicle. But we have to balance the reality of wanting to have more green vehicles of all sorts . . . with the reality that you have to regulate industries that use the streets of New York to make money."

In other words, Let's regulate everything that moves.
But, even if every industry that uses the streets should be regulated, this is hardly even-handed regulation. The $2 million insurance requirement seems hand-written to please the taxi industry, which views pedicabs as a threat.

Pedicabs have found a niche in the transportation market and should be allowed to prosper or fail on their own merits. New Yorkers trying to catch a cab on a rainy day and tourists who don't want to see the city through a car window clearly want something besides taxis.

At a time when environmental concerns are rising, regulating a carbon-free industry into the ground is a truly foolish form of backpedaling.