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Pedicabs in San Diego, California cruise the streets in the historic Gaslamp area every day of the week. They are a variable force in the downtown nightlife experience and at times can more easily maneuver the congested streets filled with local revelers and out-of-towners.
A pedicab is a 3-wheeled non-motorized vehicle, and in San Diego all are required to display an operating decal. In addition pedicab operators are required to carry an operating permit. Most pedicabs can fit up to 3 passengers but some fit up to 4 or 5 passengers and are required to be equipped with working seat belts and battery operated tail-lights to be used after dusk. Additionally, competition has made pedicab owners add stereo systems to play the latest tunes, offer advertising opportunities on the pedicab and “pimp-out” their pedicabs to attract more revenue and customers.
The pedicab business model, or rather, business route, differs from that of the traditional taxicab in San Diego. While pedicab operators are willing to make short trips (a block away) or longer trips that can range from Petco Park to the W Hotel (1.5 miles) or the Hard Rock Hotel to Ruth Chris Steakhouse on Harbor Drive (1.5 miles), cab drivers prefer longer trips from Petco Park to the W Hotel or from Petco Park to Hillcrest (4.6 miles) or from 6th and Broadway to La Mesa or to another neighborhood (10 plus miles) away from the central downtown area. Thus competition between the two types of cabs hardly riles up either side.
For travel within the Gaslamp area customers like me mainly prefer pedicabs over the traditional taxicab not necessarily because of their green qualities but rather for their cool factor, their convenience (it is faster to get from point A to point B in a pedicab than by car or foot), and – if you dare – you can negotiate your fare. However, sometimes you do not even have to negotiate the fare because pedicab operators set their own prices.
The City of San Diego requires that a set fare schedule is displayed on the pedicab that puts a ceiling on the amount that can be charged on the streets, but there is no set fare generating system like there is in a taxicab. For instance, on a recent Saturday night I got some price quotes from a few pedicabs to go from 5th Street and Island to The Hard Rock Hotel, with prices quotes ranging from $15 to $5 for three people. Additionally, after polling a few local friends I found out that there is no legal way to ensure a minimum set payment for a pedicab trip. Thus even if the pedicab operator wants to charge you $10 and you only fork over $5 the pedicab can’t necessarily take legal action against you for not paying the full fare.
While the design parameters for the stylized pedicab are becoming more of a mainstay on the streets of San Diego, the laws and regulations for pedicabs are still relatively vague for both customers and owners in San Diego. Perhaps it is because the market is still working its magic and owners are still making enough profits and have yet to face real adversity to make much commotion and because customers paying higher fares may not remember the exact fare they were charged after leaving the bars.