A family of tourists from Texas paid a steep $442 (£274) for a pedicab ride in New York City leading to the City Council addressing the issue of pricing for the popular rides.
Operators of pedicabs - adult tricycles with a padded seat that can carry three passengers - are allowed to charge whatever they like as long as their prices are posted on the side of the cab. However listed prices are often based on a confusing formula. For example, an initial charge of $5, plus $1 or $2 per short block and $3, $4, or $5 per long block.
And not all rate cards state that the charges are per rider. A ride through Central Park can cost over $50 per passenger.
This was what led to the $442 fare Councilman Dan Garodnick cited during a hearing on the issue last week.
Associated Press reports that the driver told the Texas couple after their 14-block ride that they had to pay $100 for each additional passenger, even though their daughters, aged seven and nine, sat on their laps. It was technically illegal for four passengers to travel in the pedicab and a trip for three ordinarily costs $80 to $100.
A proposal by the City Council would scrap the rate cards for a per-minute charge that drivers could set. 'They would set it, they would post it and that's the story,' Garodnick said.
'What we don't want are surprises at the end.'
Drivers say they would support the change to the current system but they don't all agree on what it should be changed to.
Vice president of the New York City Pedicab Owners Association and a pedicab driver himself, Greg Zuman, acknowledges abuse of the rate cards but said he does not support the per-minute system.
He says he would prefer prices to be quoted before the ride starts.
'The prices aren't quoted up front right now, and that's a huge problem,' he said.
Pedicabs were introduced to New York City in the 1990s as a cheaper alternative to the horse-drawn carriages that operate in Central Park and midtown Manhattan. They have become increasingly popular and there are currently 1,335 licenced drivers in the city.
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