Pedal Car Ordinances and the Future of Reno

06/04/2012 (press release: Dotedge) // Reno, Nevada, USA // Ted Levatter [email protected]

Pedaling through the barriers between small business and local government.

“That’s what I’m all about, the bicycle movement.” This was the response from entrepreneur, Rex Lee, when asked about the inspiration behind his company, Pedal Express. Pedal Express, the largest pedi-cab company in Reno, has more than 20 bikes in it’s fleet. A pedi-cab is a small pedal-operated vehicle, similar to a rickshaw, that operates as a mode of transportation or entertainment.

Rex, who describes bicycles as the “very efficient machines,” was introduced to the pedi-cab industry in 1992, while he was living in Chico, California. He has operated similar establishments in Arlington, Houston, and Baton Rouge. A veteran of the industry, Rex worked from start to finish with the City Attorney in Baton Rouge to create city regulations that protected public safety, and supported the growth of the industry.

In Reno, Pedal Express specializes in guided tours in and around downtown Reno; the average tour lasts between 30-40 minutes and cost around $20. The tours you can choose from include a historic trip through downtown, a romantic ride by the river, or a fun beer or wine tour. They have also introduced the company scavenger hunt tour; the scavenger tour is a great team building exercise, but it also gives the employees time away from the office enjoying the outdoors.

Pedi-cabs are more than just entertainment though, they can also be considered a quick, easy, fun, and environmentally friendly way to get from place to place. The pedi-cabs are designed to support downtown business by providing a fun, safe, and environmentally conscious form of transportation.

Despite a growing business and happy customers, Rex is struggling to continue doing business here in Reno. It has been eight months since the city of Reno informed Rex that they were going to regulate the bike cab industry, but to date, nothing has been finalized. “I am more than willing to follow regulations laid out by the city; it protects my riders, my customers, and my company. Unfortunately I am in a holding pattern until someone gives me appropriate direction.” It is critical to the growth of the company for these regulations to be established without further delay.

When asked about the growth opportunities, Rex described the industry as, “An underdeveloped, young industry with the possibility of exploding. It gives us the opportunity to generate new dollars in the local economy.” These are the types of small, local businesses that help turn an economy around. Matt Polley, candidate for Reno City Council and avid supporter of pedi-cabs, expresses the importance for city officials to support new industries that create jobs, “City government has to work closer with small business to develop regulations that facilitate economic growth, not impede it.”

Other areas such as Washington DC have begun asking for feedback from cab owners and drivers on a tentative draft of pedi–cab regulations released last week by the National Park Services. The federal organization has expressed “persistent acknowledgment that these regulations are still evolving.” We don’t have to get it perfect the first time; we can come up with regulations, test them, and if they don’t work change them. Doing nothing is not an option.

Taxi Code has been the basis for developmental regulations in the past that include guidelines for work permits and insurance; however, Rex has yet to obtain either of these because the city ordinances have to be written first — a classic catch-22, and that is why Matt Polley has stepped in to facilitate the process. “What kind of business can survive if you make it difficult for them to be a ‘customer’ of the city? We want them to become repeat customers, and we do that by being customer friendly.”

We need to get city officials, law enforcement, downtown merchants, and pedi-cab operators at the table to develop a plan that balances the growth of a new industry with public safety. We must support local business and approach the situation with a willingness to work together. Compromise is not always a bad thing. Business owners have worked very hard to create successful businesses; local government cannot continue to delay development.

Matt Polley and Pedal Express want to break down the communication barriers between small business owners and government. We must work collectively towards a better Reno.

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