Advertisement

Unregulated pedicabs have made parts of London like the Wild West, MPs told

Unregulated pedicabs have made parts of London like the “Wild West” with tourists charged hundreds of pounds for journeys of fewer than 10 minutes, MPs have heard.

Conservative MP Nickie Aiken (Cities of London and Westminster) criticised the cycle rickshaws as the Commons offered its support to the Pedicabs (London) Bill at second reading.

The Bill would allow for the regulation of the vehicles for the first time, including: licensing; what fares operators can charge; safety and roadworthiness; and speed restrictions.

It is estimated there can be up to 900 pedicabs operating during peak season although there are concerns that many lack basic safety features and can cause traffic problems, such as parking in bus lanes or flouting one-way rules.

Local council elections
Conservative MP Nickie Aiken criticised the cycle rickshaws (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Transport for London is currently unable to regulate pedicabs and the police have few powers to control them effectively.

Ms Aiken said it is time that pedicabs in London were “regulated as black cabs are, as Ubers are and as private hire vehicles are”, telling MPs: “Parts of my constituency including Soho, Covent Garden, Marylebone and Fitzrovia can become like the Wild West, it becomes the Wild West End at times because of the sheer numbers of pedicabs on the street.”

Ms Aiken also said that pedicab operators have been found to be “unfit” drivers, or to be wanted for criminal charges.

“Drivers and vehicles must be safe. And there have been too many instances when there have been police operations and operations in conjunction with the Westminster City Council, that we have found drivers who are unfit to be taking passengers.

Brexit
Transport Minister Guy Opperman said the Bill would mean ‘people can have trust’ in pedicabs (David Mirzoeff/PA)

“Whether they are wanted for serious crimes, whether it’s sexual violence crimes, I believe one person was actually found wanted for murder,” she said.

She added: “We have found asylum seekers who haven’t got the right to work driving these pedicabs, we have found illegal immigrants who haven’t got the right to work here and these people are also being exploited, let’s not forget that.

“One of the reasons why I think it’s important to have regulated pedicabs, is that it will ensure that drivers have rights.”

Transport Minister Guy Opperman said the Bill would mean “people can have trust” in the pedicab industry, and also that “rogue actors” would be prevented from operating.

Mr Opperman said in some cases pedicab operators were “abusing tourists” and “ripping people off”.

He told the Commons: “Some of the worst examples include a tourist charged more than £450 for a seven-minute, 1.3-mile journey with their two children, another charged £500 for a 10-minute journey between Mayfair and Soho, and one hit with a £180 bill for a three-minute journey.”

Mr Opperman said: “We need a situation where a tourist to London should step into one of the pedicabs and they should not face a risk of a unauthorised – or inappropriate is a better way to put it – fare, an unlicensed driver who has had no background checks and a vehicle potentially with no safety standards. That sadly has been the case on a fairly regular basis.”

For Labour, shadow transport minister Simon Lightwood said the Bill was “long overdue”.

Conservative former minister Sir Christopher Chope criticised the Government for using “prime time” on a Wednesday to discuss pedicabs when we have got “thousands of illegal immigrants on our streets who have jumped bail or got rid of their tags”.

Sir Christopher also argued that the Government should be doing more to tackle the issue of e-bikes and e-scooters.

The MP for Christchurch said TfL should bring forward draft regulations for pedicabs before the Government gives them a “blank cheque”.

Conservative former minister Kit Malthouse (North West Hampshire) said: “Having been in close shaves with a couple of them over the years, I can say that very often (pedicabs) are dangerously driven, badly parked, they block the roads and pavements, they cause … problems for emergency vehicles who need access particularly to pedestrianised areas.”

The Bill will undergo further scrutiny at a later date.