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DOT Reverses Course on Helmet Rule for Pedicab Passengers

By Eric Richardson
Published: Thursday, June 11, 2009, at 03:51PM
Perry in a Pedicab Eric Richardson [Flickr]

Councilwoman Jan Perry rides a pedicab during a 2008 trip to San Diego organized by the Bringing Back Broadway effort.

Pedicabs passengers would not be required to wear helmets under new rules proposed by the city's Department of Transportation. That clarification came as part of an hour-long discussion of the pedal-powered transport, and contradicted language in both DOT's proposed rules and statements earlier in the meeting.

The new rules were in front of the city's Board of Transportation Commissioners for approval, but the body instead chose to take another month on the issue to clarify language and create a document that will not discourage potential operators.

Commissioners and public speakers were supportive of the pedicab concept, and a representative from Councilwoman Janice Hahn's office shared that work is moving quickly on a plan to bring pedicab service to the San Pedro area.

Both commission members and speakers took issue with some of the specifics contained in the DOT-produced rules, with issues over helmet use and operator apparel front and center.

During their initial presentation, DOT staff told the Commission that passenger helmet use was required by California's Vehicle Code.

That did not sit well with commissioners. "Just as a practical issue, anyone who's a passenger on this pedicab is not going to want to put on a helmet," said Commissioner Angela Reddick. "I think you're going to set the people up for failure."

After staff then said that the new rules would only mandate that helmets be provided, not that they be worn, the commissioners pointed out specific language in the proposed rules that would do just that. The rules dictate a fine for "transporting passengers without properly secured helmets or seatbelt" that starts at $500 for the first offense.

Referring to another section of the rules that authorize operators to refuse service to passengers who refuse to wear a helmet, Commissioner Grace Yoo took issue with the disparity between the presentation and the written rules. "The wording here again is just not quite what you're telling me," she told staff. "It needs to be cleaner."

Commissioners also took exception to the specific language used to regulate operator attire, asking that the wording be changed to allow for wardrobe options more suited to operators pedaling a bicycle in potential hot Los Angeles weather.

The board ended up continuing the item for thirty days and appointing Yoo to work with DOT staff to produce a simpler document.

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