Tourism boom paves way for increase in pedicabs

 

Victoria is considering boosting the number of pedicab licences it issues in the hope of fostering more competition in the industry.

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“Tourism is booming,” Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said. “The last time we visited this it was 2012. If you look at Tourism Victoria’s numbers, they go up and up and up. In March of this year, there was 80 per cent [hotel] occupancy.

“So we’re doing it because there’s demand. There was demand years ago and there was a big push back from the industry — which is one company — that they didn’t need any more competitors,” Helps said.

If approved, the total number of pedicab licences would be increased to 35 from the existing 28, what Helps called a “modest” increase.

“It also, quite frankly, allows new players to get into the game. We don’t need monopolies in any kind of business in the city,” Helps said.

City staff are recommending capping the number of licences any one person can operate at 28 and requiring applicants for licences to be able demonstrate they have procedures in place “to ensure that persons operating the pedicab will do so in a safe manner.”

Staff say determining the appropriate number of licences in any given marketplace is an inexact science at best and that a number of factors have to be considered, including market demand and infrastructure capacity. Vancouver allows 60 licences.

The existing market could probably absorb another four licences, said Andrew Capeau, Victoria Pedicab Company president and owner. Victoria Pedicab has eight licences and manages the remaining 20 licences through Pacific Pedicabs (five licences) and Kabuki Kabs (Victoria) Ltd. (15 licences).

“I understand that the council is wanting to open up opportunities, but I think we also have to consider the economic realities that are out there,” he said.

“I think it would be beneficial for the industry to bring in competition. They are recommending seven. I’m recommending four additional licences.”

With tourism numbers up, Capeau expects all 28 pedicabs to be in operation this year. That hasn’t always been the case. The number of pedicabs on the street dropped to 18 in 2013, but increased steadily to 25 last year.

Capeau said an additional four licences would be a “measured” response.

“If we go too high there’s a potential it could be damaging to the industry,” he said.

As a self-regulating industry, it has developed a “code of conduct” that covers everything from fares charged to safety and quality measures and standards, Capeau said.

While city staff say there are no concerns either from an engineering or transportation perspective about increasing the number of licences, Capeau noted that it’s no secret that the Inner Harbour causeway can get congested, especially when a couple of cruise ships are in port.

“We’re already under pressure because of that, so I don’t know if the city is considering the implications of more pedicabs and possibly more rickshaws,” he said. “I sometimes think that they are making decisions based on their political ideology rather than the economic and physical realities.”

City staff say if the increase in licences is approved a lottery system would be used to allocate them.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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