Founder of the Delray Bicycle Club Patrick Halliday dreamed of bringing pedicabs to Atlantic Avenue for residents and tourists to enjoy.
The alternative mode of transportation would give folks another way to get around without using a car.
The idea would involve requesting a ride via an app and indicating specific pick up and drop off locations. Halliday has received permission to do so in Boca Raton, Boynton Beach and Palm Beach County.
But a lack of support from the city’s police, fire and environmental services departments convinced commissioners that it was not the right time to implement even a pilot program to test the pedicabs.
“We are all for green, sustainable transportation modes,” said Director of Environmental Services John Morgan. “The issue here is really the footprint of our downtown. Does it lend itself to a different vehicle type, it’s already congested. There is no support for this. We don’t see how it can work here.”
Police Chief Jeff Goldman said the pedicabs will take up a lane of traffic and slow down the already standstill traffic.
“I think it will cause more issues downtown,” he said.
He said adding policing the pedicab drivers to the list of responsibilities the downtown cops already have would be over-tasking the department.
“This will ultimately fall on us,” Goldman said. “We are already dealing with stolen phones, drug calls, sober homes and now you are going to say you have to look out for pedicabs. I don’t know if I can come back to you with data in six months or a year because there is so much going on downtown.”
City Manager Neal de Jesus said city staff has concerns about even trying the program on a trial basis.
“The idea of a test or pilot is no different than implementation,” he said. “I don’t like experimenting with peoples’ lives. You’re a passenger under the control of a driver. We believe the potential to harm someone is there.”
Off the bat, Mayor Cary Glickstein said he did not support the idea.
“What works in one city doesn’t necessarily work in another,” he said. “I don’t think we have the capacity for it and I think we are going to pay a price for it.”
Another concern raised by commissioners involved possibly opening the door to other pedicab operators by granting one permission to operate. Staff said it would be hard to eliminate other companies from requesting the same permission.
Some commissioners were more willing to give the program a chance until city staff persuaded them against it.
“I don’t think you can make the traffic on Atlantic Avenue any worse,” Commissioner Katz said. “I am open to trying it.”
Commissioner Jim Chard said he thinks the pedicabs would be an alternative way to get around not an additive way.
“I think if this is managed well it could reduce traffic problems, congestion problems, parking problems and a little bit of pollution.”
If commissioners were to consider adding pedicabs in the future, they would have to establish a permit fee, discuss what they would look like, if they would be allowed to have advertisements on them, what operators could charge passengers, if there would be designated routes and other logistics.
Ultimately, health and safety concerns convinced commissioners that it not the right time to bring the program to the city.