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Should Orange County regulate pedicabs?

Some say uninsured, unregulated pedicabs put people in danger

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When you take a ride in a pedicab on International Drive, are you taking your life into your hands? A lack of regulation of non-motorized vehicles for hire – those ubiquitous bicycle-powered carts also known as pedicabs – in unincorporated Orange County has some business owners and county officials worried that you might be.

"When you're putting people in an unregulated open-air vehicle, there's no doubt the consumer is in danger," says newly elected Orange County Tax Collector Scott Randolph. "Tourists presume the government is protecting them."

Since 2007, the Florida Highway Patrol has recorded 2,291 crashes involving bicycles in Orange County ­– 512 were recorded in 2012 alone. Though crashes are not categorized by whether they involved pedicabs, the Orange County Sheriff's Office did report at least one recent instance in which an unregulated pedicab injured an attendee at the Orange County Convention Center. The pedicab driver fled the scene of the accident.

In 2007, the city of Orlando enacted an ordinance regulating non-motorized vehicles, requiring pedicab drivers to obtain a permit, businesses to obtain $500,000 liability insurance and vehicles to undergo safety inspections. According to Orange County officials, at least 50 individuals consequently moved their operations outside city limits and into unincorporated areas of Orange County – specifically International Drive and the adjoining tourist areas.

That's because, unlike the downtown district, Orange County does not regulate non-motorized vehicles. Individuals and businesses wishing to operate a non-motorized vehicle in the county are only required to file a local business tax receipt, which is issued by the Orange County Tax Collector's Office and allows a business to operate at a specific address or property.

According to Orange County Tax Collector records, a total of 69 drivers and six companies have filed business tax receipts to operate pedicabs on I-Drive. The law does not require these drivers to carry insurance, and they are allowed to operate without governmental oversight.

The Orange County Convention Center is the only entity regulating pedicabs in the I-Drive area. To operate on convention center property, pedicab drivers must undergo background checks carried out by the Orange County Sheriff's Office, have a valid state-issued driver's license and provide the center with a copy of the business' or individual's insurance policy. But not all pedicab drivers are operating at the convention center; those who don't do not have to do any of the above.

The Sheriff's Office uses state bicycle laws to deal with unregulated pedicab operators. And in 2009 the Orange County Board of County Commissioners amended the Orange County Code to remove criminal penalties for anyone operating a business without a local business tax receipt.

If the operator refuses to produce a tax receipt, or simply drives off when asked for one, authorities have no legal authority to pursue them or force them to produce the receipt.

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