Monday, June 9, 2008

The NYC pedicab industry needs some laws.

Let me give you three examples of New York City government's lack of foresight. Two are back a ways, and the third happened just last week.

One hot night in 1986 in Prospect Park, three boys climbed through a hole in the Prospect Park Zoo fence, which the Park had not bothered to repair. The boys snuck into the Zoo and one was eaten by polar bears. This is absolutely true, he really was eaten by polar bears! His friends ran back out and told their older relatives, who called the cops, who came in and shot the bears to death. After the needless death of a child, the City fixed the broken fence. Made a big show of it, too.

In about 1990 the City and Amtrak were arguing over who should build a wall between Riverside Park and the Amtrak lines on the west side of Manhattan. They had been going back and forth over it for years; neither wanted to spend the money, and both thought the other should spring for it. But then a little child wandered onto the tracks and was killed by a train. The two parties then fell over each other in efforts to co-operate, and together they both built the wall which could have saved that child's life, had the City and Amtrak been able to see danger on their shared track ahead. But they were only able to see the cost in terms of money, and had set aside thoughts of the cost in human life.

There have been a rising number of construction crane accidents in town. Last Friday James Delayo, the city's top crane inspector, was arrested on suspicion of having taken up to $10,000 in bribes. That arrest happened a full seven weeks after a crane collapse killed seven people, and one week after another collapsed crane killed its operator. The city's historical pattern is pretty clear on dangers brought on by its lack of a proactive mindset:
1. Wait for disaster
2. Enforce the rules after disaster occurs

There are now hundreds of untrained, unlicensed, uninsured pedicab drivers in NYC.
The pedicab law and its rules pertaining to safety, training, insurance and the licensing of the industry's drivers is in place. All that is needed now is enforcement. But, instead of enforcing the law, the NYPD's "Operation Impact" is making rookie cops -- and only rookies -- enforce bicycle rules against pedicabs. The kinds of rules that even cyclists never get tickets for, such as driving on the right side of a one-way street (the left side is safer.) The tickets ought to be written by seasoned patrolmen and women, and should be for lack of insurance papers, lack of a state-issued driver license, lack of working turn signals and brake lights. A law was passed in 2007 mandating all these things, as well as hydraulic brakes and seat belts.

That's what should be done. But, judging by the City's past and current practices, someone will die before proper enforcement begins.

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