Bike Rickshaw Operators On National Mall Complain Of Police Harassment
Monday, June 20, 2011 - 05:03 PM
"After working yesterday I got on the bus and both my legs started spasming," he said. "But it's cool. Its a fun job.
What's not fun, he said, is getting attention from the U.S. Park Police. Several pedicab drivers say that recently Park Police officers around the National Mall have been pulling them over, demanding to see their IDs and writing them expensive tickets.
College student Ismael Balderas said sometimes the cops approach him right after he picks up a customer.
"They'll be like 'Oh, whatever he's told you its going to cost, its free,'" he said. "'When you get there, don't give him anything.'"
In interviews, several pedicabbers said that officers are now writing them expensive tickets for things they let slide in previous years.
Mike Potter said he's been stopped by the police several times this summer. "They just come up and, say, ask for our IDs, run a background check on us, and then they tell us to move on or they’re going to arrest us for public nuisance," Potter said.
Park Police spokesman David Schlosser said he can't confirm whether officers are telling pedicab customers not to pay or threatening them with public nuisance arrests, but he does say the Park Police are embarking on an "education campaign" this summer to make pedicabbers aware of the laws governing where and how they can operate.
But it's not a crackdown designed to harass the drivers, Schlosser said. "We’re not focusing on any specific enforcement campaign. We’re mostly working on an education thing," he said. "So at this point, if there’s thoughts that there’s increased enforcement, there’s really not."
The Park Police are mainly concerned with the safety of the drivers, and making sure they don't block the roads, Schlosser added.
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