Friday, June 24, 2011
(Washington D.C. - WAMU) Riding a rickshaw strapped to a bike - something that's also known as a pedicab - is not an easy job. Pedicab operators often transport three or four people at a time, up hills and often in sweltering weather.
But for pedicabbers in Washington D.C., especially those that operate around the National Mall, their jobs are even harder now. This summer, the U.S. Park Police - the law enforcement arm of the National Park Service - is embarking on what it calls an "education campaign" designed to remind pedicab operators of the laws they have to follow. Park Police spokesman David Schlosser said his department has concerns that these vehicles block the roads, and that some of them are unlicensed and unsafe.
Pedicab operators, however, say "education campaign" is a euphemism for what Park Police officers are actually doing.
They said the officers are needlessly pulling them over, writing them tickets for things that they could do freely in previous summers, and - in some cases - telling their customers not to pay them. "They'll be like 'Oh, whatever he's told you its going to cost, its free,'" pedicabber Ismael Balderas said. "'When you get there, don't give him anything.'"
Sarah Roberts is a college student earning some extra money this summer driving a pedicab. She said she had a particularly ugly experience with a Park Police officer last week.
She had just dropped a customer off at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, she said, when an officer approached her and demanded to see her ID. She refused, and then the officer slapped his handcuffs on her.
"I was just trying to understand the situation and he put a handcuff on me and kind of dragged me over to the hood of his car," she said, leaving a quarter-size mark on her shoulder.
Roberts, a petite 22-year-old with long dark hair, was yelling for help as hundreds of museum-goers stood by and watched. She said another plainclothes officer emerged from the crowd and joined in the arrest. Roberts said the plain clothes officer forced her to the pavement by putting his knee on the back of her thigh.
"I asked the guy 'Why are you helping him? Do you even know what's going on?' she recalled. "It seemed at that point that I'd already been criminalized."
Later on, Roberts said the officers were preparing to search her person and she requested that this be done by a female officer because, she told them, she had been the victim of sexual abuse and didn't feel comfortable being frisked by male police officers. However, Roberts said the officers ignored her request and searched her themselves.
Roberts said she ended up getting charged with resisting arrest and assaulting an officer, charges which she described as preposterous since the officers who arrested her were almost twice her size. "I definitely did not strike or go to strike the police officer at any time," Roberts said. "I would never do that."
As a female pedicabber in a largely male-dominated industry, Roberts says she now wonders if it's still safe for her to ride around on her bike-drawn rickshaw alone. "In the last few days when I’ve been out at work I’ve definitely preferred to not be by myself," she said.
Schlosser didn't return our phone calls requesting comment on Roberts' story.
When I spoke to Roberts about the incident, it was clear she was still very shaken up. She looked toward the ground during our entire interview, avoiding eye contact, and her voice was low and shaky.
Yet, when I asked if I could take a photograph of the mark on her shoulder, Roberts readily agreed. Without any prompting, she pulled up her shirt and flexed her arm in a 'Rosie the Riveter'-style pose, thrusting her pockmarked shoulder directly at the camera.
For more of Roberts' story, click here.
UPDATE - 6/28: Park Police spokesman David Schlosser spoke with Transportation Nation this morning. He says the officer approached Roberts to inform her that her pedicab was parked illegally in a crosswalk and that she refused to move it. He says Roberts was charged with resisting arrest/assaulting an officer, which is a misdemeanor, and failure to obey a lawful order, relating to her refusal to move her pedicab. Transportation Nation also spoke with Roberts again this morning. She acknowledges her pedicab was parked illegally, but says at no time did the officer inform her of this. She maintains that the officer approached, asked for her ID and then arrested her when she refused to provide it. Roberts also says that afterward, while she was in her holding cell, the officer tried to get her to sign on to the version of events Schlosser described. She says she refused.
Monday, June 20, 2011
"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.
Listen to story here.
TN MOVING STORIES: China Wants Its Fast Rail Network To Extend Beyond Its Borders -- Ethanol Tax Subsidies Up For A Vote
Monday, June 13, 2011
By Kate Hinds
China wants to build a network of high-speed rail that extends beyond its borders. (NPR)
Chicago's transpo commissioner wants to install video screens at bus shelters that "would include everything from Bus Tracker information now available on the internet and cell phones to the current inventory for car- and bike-sharing and how long it would take to walk to popular destinations" (Chicago Sun-Times). He also wants to give pedestrians a leg up at some busy intersections. (NBC Chicago)
New York City's pedicabs may soon get new rules. (WNYC)
U.S. airlines brought in over $3 billion in bag fees last year. (The Hill)
Who's blocking Manhattan's bike lanes? Pretty much everybody and everything, according to a DNA Info investigation.
Nearly $100 million in federal transportation grants will be returned if the City Council's $50 million in additional cuts hold firm, according to Detroit Mayor Dave Bing. (Detroit News)
As Libya faces a gas shortage, women get a break at a female-only gas station in Tripoli. (NPR)
One opinion writer says mass transit's time may finally have come to central Indiana. (Indianapolis Star)
TN's Todd Zwillich talks about the Senate's upcoming vote on whether to repeal ethanol tax subsidies. You can listen to the conversation below, or check it out on The Takeaway.
Monday, June 13, 2011
By Daniel P. Tucker : Associate Producer, WNYC News
Pedicab drivers could soon be required to display a bill of rights for passengers in their cabs and provide detailed receipts even before a trip begins.
TN Moving Stories: Amtrak Ridership Continues to Grow, SF Eyes Taxi Rate Hike, and LaHood Attends Emanuel Inauguration
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
By Kate Hinds
City Limits takes a long look at Iris Weinshall, former NYC transportation commissioner, bike lane opponent, and wife of Senator Schumer.
Amtrak posted its biggest April ridership numbers in its history. (AltTransport)
San Francisco may raise taxi cab rates "to heights unseen in any other part of the nation." (AP via Sacramento Bee)
Some scientists are casting doubt on the radiation dose delivered by the TSA's body scanners. (ProPublica)
Ray LaHood attended Rahm Emanuel's inauguration; says Chicago's new mayor is sending a team to DC to talk transportation priorities. (AP via Chicago Tribune)
The Hill reports that the Senate is set to vote today on the Democrats' bill that would cut the tax breaks received by the big five oil companies.
A Manhattan community board gets behind the idea of a car-free Central Park. (DNA Info)
Two towns that protested the effects of the widening of the New Jersey Turnpike have begun spending the millions awarded them for the loss of forested land. (The Times of Trenton)
Ottawa's bike share program begins this week. (Ottawa Citizen)
Pedicabs in New York must now obey motor vehicle law. (Wall Street Journal)
A move is afoot to get London to adopt a cycle map based on the iconic Tube map. (Fast Company)
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In case you missed it on Transportation Nation:
-- Fernando Ferrer named to NY MTA board (link)
-- baby born on Verrazano Bridge (link)
-- a new report says essential urban infrastructure is disintegrating rapidly (link)