Delray resident wants downtown pedicab, but police say it’s dangerous

Those environmentally friendly chariots on three wheels carting people to and from restaurants and bars downtown?

Not in Delray Beach.

The city on Tuesday night shut down a proposal from longtime resident and cyclist advocate Patrick Halliday to start a pedicab, or bicycle cab, service on East Atlantic Avenue.

But the police department says it would be dangerous for riders and cause additional traffic on an already chaotic roadway.

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“There’s liability there …” police Chief Jeff Goldman said. “Do we want to roll the dice and see if someone gets hurt? See if someone gets hit from behind? (See) if a drunk person falls off of it?”

Halliday’s pedicab service is running on a trial basis in downtown Boca Raton, and he’s licensed to run the service with the city of Boynton Beach and Palm Beach County, he said.

Technically, Halliday’s pedicab, which can travel up to 20 miles per hour, can roll up and down Atlantic Avenue whenever he likes. It’s classified as a bicycle, which is fine.

But Halliday was asking for business license, which would require changing some city codes.

“Realistically, I can ride my pedicab on Atlantic Avenue and they can’t ticket me,” Halliday said following the meeting. “It’s just a bicycle.”

Halliday said the service would get more cars off a heavy traffic road, and give inebriated downtown visitors a safer alternative to driving.

In Boca Raton, Halliday runs an app so riders can request a safe pick-up and drop-off zones, similar to ride-sharing apps Uber and Lyft.

“Time and technology have solved all the safety concerns they have,” Halliday said.

There was once a pedicab service trial in downtown Delray Beach, until police concerns prompted the city to axe the service in 1998, according to archived news articles. The police department at the time shared the same worries — traffic and safety.

But pedicabs have advanced since the 1990s, Halliday argued. They can easily go 20 miles per hour, the posted speed limit on East Atlantic Avenue, and a cellphone app would solve the problem of unsafe drop-off zones.

Despite warnings from the police chief and Interim City Manager Neil De Jesus, who once served as fire rescue chief, three of the four present city commissioners initially leaned toward allowing the pedicab service.

“I just don’t see what harm it could be in giving it a try,” said Vice Mayor Jim Chard, later asking the police chief if he’d rather see drunk patrons hop in a pedicab or drive a car.

Added Deputy Vice Mayor Shirley Johnson: “I’m going to champion helping the environment at any opportunity.”

By the end of an hourlong discussion, however, both had changed their minds. Only Commissioner Mitch Katz supported the initiative.

“I don’t think you can make the traffic on Atlantic Ave. any worse,” Katz said.

Mayor Cary Glickstein agreed with police and city staff that service would only add to the issues downtown. He also added that allowing would service would mean re-crafting Delray’s rules to allow roving signage, which couldn’t be exclusive to pedicabs.

“So we’re going to turn this place into Coney Island?” he asked.

Without majority support, Halliday’s idea was shot down.

Said Glickstein: “I get it, it makes sense, but what works in one city doesn’t necesarily work in another.”

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