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Hail and farewell to calf-powered cabs

The Brooklyn Paper
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Brooklyn’s chance of becoming a base for a fleet of tricycle pedicabs was dashed this week when the City Council voted to limit the number of the person-powered vehicles on city streets.

The Council’s bill — which caps the number of pedicabs at 325 — was a blow to industry officials who’d dreamed of gaining approval for 500 permits per borough.

“We want to be in Brooklyn,” said pedicab driver Kate Freitag. “But with the [citywide] cap, there [wouldn’t] be enough of us to set up in Brooklyn. We’ll be stretched too thin.”

Other drivers agreed that a critical mass of cabbies would be needed in order to make Brooklyn a viable pedicab hub.

The mayor had vetoed the Council bill in March, arguing that a permit cap was too restrictive. After the veto, pedicab drivers hoped that the mayoral rejection would encourage the Council to expand, rather than limit, pedicabs.

So on the eve of this week’s Council override vote, dozens of pedicab drivers gave free rides across the Brooklyn Bridge to show off the service to reporters (full disclosure: The Brooklyn Paper took advantage of the offer).

Pedicab drivers argue that their muscle-cranked mode of transportation is not only safe, environmentally friendly, but ripe for an expansion to Brooklyn, which is in the midst of a huge increase in tourism. Their sympathizers in the Council agreed.

“It would be wonderful to see a fleet of pedicabs in Brooklyn,” said Councilman David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights), who nonetheless voted to override the veto this week. “I think that they would be a wonderful addition to the community.”

Drivers aren’t counting themselves out yet. The industry is preparing possible legal action against the city.

“The fight’s not over yet,” said Freitag. “We might still end up changing their minds.”

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