The legality of pedicabs

Pedicabs, or cycle rickshaws, provide transport for passengers on short, emission-free journeys.

The demand for this mode of transport has been strong, and pedicabs have become a colourful and vibrant part of the wider integrated transport network available in London. The regulations governing pedicabs outside of London have, however, made it difficult for this transport mode to develop to its full potential in other UK cities.

This article outlines the legal status of pedicabs across the UK.

In London

Pedicabs can legally operate in London as Stage Carriages under Section 4 of the Metropolitan Public Carriage Act 1869. This decision was made by the High Court in the case of R (oao Oddy) v. Bugbugs Ltd. As such, pedicabs can legally ply-for-hire in any street or place within Greater London. They must charge single and separate fares per passenger. The licensing provisions in Section 6 of the Act do not extend to Stage Carriages but apply only to Hackney Carriages. There are, therefore, no licensing provisions in legislation that apply to pedicabs in London.

Mr Justice Pitchford stated in 2003: “I recognise that the consequence of this decision is that the pedicab plying for hire in London is subject to no licensing regime. That may be regarded as an unwelcome consequence. The first respondent (Bugbugs) has submitted to the London Public Carriage Office a draft strategy for pedicab regulation and it is anticipated that a scheme will be prepared within the next few months. I comment only that unless my decision is wrong in law, primary legislation will probably be required”.

The Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association sought leave to appeal the above decision in the House of Lords and approached Transport for London (TfL) to join them in the appeal. TfL declined in 2003 because they regarded the High Court decision as being sound.

In 2006, Transport for London sought a Declaratory Judgement in the administrative court to overturn the above judgement, which, if successful, would have changed the classification of pedicabs in London from Stage Carriages into Hackney Carriages. The proposal, after a Public Consultation, was to then license pedicabs as Hackney Carriages under S6 of the Metropolitan Public Carriage Act 1869. However, as stated at the Opposed Bills Committee in the Lords (Bill House of Lords) in 2009, TfL abandoned the case on the basis that after all it was inappropriate to license pedicabs in this manner.

Outside London

Outside London, pedicabs are classified as Hackney Carriages, they can therefore be licensed and can ply-for-hire (i.e. be available to passengers for immediate hire). This decision was made by the Court of Appeal in the case of R v Cambridge City Council ex parte Lane (1999).

The decision in this case was that pedicabs fall under the definition of a Hackney Carriage under the Town Police Clauses Act 1847 and, as such, must be licensed as Hackney Carriages. Fares are charged at a flat rate regardless of how many passengers are carried, in contrast to fares per passenger if operating as a Stage Carriage (in London).

The consequence of pedicabs being classified as Hackney Carriages outside London is that there are many difficulties in transposing hackney carriage regulations in order that they may apply equally to pedicabs. Many local authorities, some of which have been very keen indeed to set up or endorse pedicab services, have simply said ‘no’ to granting licences or given up on the basis that it is too difficult. In the rare places where pedicabs have been licenced, the regulations have been somewhat ‘skewed’ in order to shoehorn pedicabs into them.

In Scotland, again, the law is different. Pedicabs are operating successfully in Edinburgh and other cities in Scotland, licensed by local councils by means of Street Trading Licences. This has been reasonably successful and does provide a modicum of control. However, as far as we are aware, street trading regulations do not extend to mandatory insurance, conditions of fitness for pedicabs, and other measures one would expect of a formal licensing regime.

Enforcement

Due to the lack of regulation, there are very few regulations that the police can enforce. They have no powers in relation to lack of insurance, lack of training for riders, or pedicabs that aren’t fit for the purpose of carrying passengers. They can enforce the Cycle Construction and Use and Lighting regulations, but these are unclear with regard to pedicabs or indeed other three or four-wheeled cargo or work bikes. The police are limited to moving traffic regulations applicable to cyclists (e.g. careless cycling/jumping a red light) and wilful obstruction of the highway.

Moving towards regulation

In 2014, the Law Commission published a report on reforming Taxi and Private Hire Legislation, including the operation of pedicab services across the country. The report recommended to the government that riders of pedicabs in London should be licensed and subject to strict safety and training standards, with local authorities given powers to ban those who fail to meet national safety standards.

It is likely to be several years before any of the Law Commission recommendations are adopted, and should those recommendations lead to an effective ban on this mode of transport the pedicab industry has said it will seek to challenge. The industry has suggested an alternative route to regulation – which would involve the Secretary of State for Transport giving powers to local traffic authorities to license pedicabs by way of secondary legislation subject to certain conditions set out by parliament.

Author

This article was extracted from an original article written by Chris Smallwood of the London Pedicab Operators Association.

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