Zac Goldsmith, the Conservative candidate in this year’s mayoral election, has called for Transport for London to be granted powers to licence rickshaws.
The vehicles are popular with visitors but their unregulated nature exposes passengers to vastly inflated fares – last summer a family of tourists were charged over £200 for a one mile journey – while traders in the West End and black cab drivers have long complained about the congestion they cause.
Campaigners have called for the vehicles to be brought under TfL’s oversight, a move previously backed by the Law Commission, and last year former Transport Commissioner Sir Peter Hendy wrote to all London MPs asking them to press ministers to bring forward legislation to make this happen.
Mr Goldsmith has now written to Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin adding his voice to the calls for the vehicles to be regulated in a bid to protect London’s image, ease congestion and improve road safety.
He said: “Rickshaws clog up the roads, ride on the pavements and are not subject to the same rules as cabs, which are there to protect passengers.
“By licensing them we can make them safer for passengers, pedestrians and cyclists. I will use my record of working with this Government to deliver a change in the law to make it happen.”
Goldsmith’s call has been backed by Westminster Council leader Philippa Roe who said: “Passengers in the West End suffer most as the lack of regulation means pedicabs can operate without insurance, proper pricing or any form of driver checks.
“Pedicabs are also regularly involved in anti-social behaviour which is a nuisance to those who live, work and visit the city.”
Text of Mr Goldmsith’s letter to Patrick McLoughlin:
Dear Secretary of State,
I am writing to ask for your support in making the necessary legal changes to enable London to properly regulate and licence rickshaws, which operate in London’s West End.
As you will know, local residents, black cabs and West End businesses have been calling for this for many years. Currently the drivers do not need a licence, can charge any fare they want, provided it is verbally agreed with a customer at the start of the journey and often carry more than the allowed three passengers. They park illegally outside tourist attractions and in residents’ parking bays and metered parking bays without paying and therefore prevent other drivers parking in legitimate paying parking places.
Rickshaws are involved in over 600 incidents a year and have been accused of ripping off London tourists, with one rider last year caught on video charging a group of tourists over £200 for a one-mile journey between Oxford Circus and Marble Arch.
You will be aware of the quirks in the law that mean although the Metropolitan Police can deal with rickshaws parked on the pavement, Transport for London – as the natural and correct licensing authority – cannot currently license them as they do black cabs and private hire vehicles.
The Law Commission’s 2014 report on reforming Taxi and Private Hire Legislation recommends that riders of rickshaws in London should be licensed and subject to strict safety and training standards, with local authorities given powers to ban those who fail to meet national safety standards.
I support the Law Commission’s findings and I believe a clear opportunity exists for new legislation specifically for pedal powered and electrically assisted rickshaws to cover all the issues associated with them, including safety standards and that all such vehicles are required to be registered as for any other class of passenger carrying vehicle. It could also provide a framework for local licensing schemes.
I look forward to working with you to deliver action on this issue once and for all.