Selectmen weigh regulations for pedicabs (Boston)

                                           Pedicabs, like this one that was tested on Washington Street earlier this year, could be sharing the road with vehicles this summer.

By Jason Graziadei

I&M Senior Writer

(April 20, 2011) A Boston pedicab driver’s bid to bring the passenger-carrying tricycles to Nantucket for the summer was reviewed by the Board of Selectmen Wednesday night, but no decision was rendered on the proposed regulations and licensing of such vehicles on the island.

P.J. Antonik, who said he can make up to $500 in fares on a good day driving his pedicab in Boston, hopes to start a similar business on Nantucket with up to six bikes shuttling pedestrians around the downtown area, out to Jetties, and as far south as Stop & Shop and the Chicken Box.

Under the regulations developed by Antonik and the Traffic Safety Work Group, there would be no set fares for pedicab rides, and drivers would rely on tips from riders for revenue.

Pedicabs are like a “giant tricycle” Antonik told the selectmen Wednesday, with a large seat in tow that can accommodate up to three adults. The vehicles are popular in major cities like Boston, New York and Chicago where they are known for their ability to move quickly through gridlock.

Antonik said he hoped to pick up fares while pedaling around the downtown area, or by waiting in designated fire lanes with a driver ready to move the pedicab at all times. Fire chief Mark McDougall said he was comfortable with the arrangement as long as drivers stayed with the pedicabs if they decide to wait in a fire lane.

“We’re not a cab,” Antonik said. “Cabs charge set rates and they have minimums and go long distances. It’s a completely different business. It’s less of a ride and more of an experience – enjoying the island in a different way. We’re not looking to take money out of the cab drivers’ pockets. It’s a totally different ballgame. We’re not driving people out to Sconset. I’m not looking to go to the airport. It’s about providing a unique experience downtown.”

Traffic safety officials developed a map where the pedicabs would be allowed to operate, an area stretching from the Stop & Shop out to Jetties Beach. Travel along the truck route from downtown to the Milestone Rotary, including Orange, Union and Washington streets, would be prohibited for pedicab operators. Still, new selectman Bob DeCosta was unconvinced, citing the potential for gridlock with a vehicle that tops out at 14 mph.

“I have some real concerns about these with the traffic we have in town, the truck routes, the cobblestones,” DeCosta said. “Eight to 14 miles per hour? Traffic goes slow enough. I have a vision of Main Street or Orange Street, and you can’t get around a bicycle let alone a pedicab. I cant’ get around it.”

Antonik said his business model includes an investment in as many as six pedicabs, which he would rent out to drivers during the summer. Drivers would be paid from their tips alone.

“We would be providing a service for foot traffic and pedestrians to get around downtown with no set rate, based on tips alone,” Antonik said. “It’s really a simple business. It promotes local business, foot traffic, it’s environmentally friendly and promotes green energy.”

Selectman Rick Atherton suggested approving the regulations on a trial basis, with a scheduled review as the summer season ramped up as an opportunity to make changes to the areas of operation if necessary. With two selectmen absent from the meeting – Michael Kopko and Patty Roggeveen – the board opted to postpone its decision for one week.

In other news from Wednesday night’s meeting, the selectmen:

• Approved a $38,500 contract with Green Environmental Inc. to remove the underground fuel tank and install an above ground tank at Our Island Home. Funding for the project was approved within Article 13 at the 2010 Annual Town Meeting.

• Approved public assembly permits for the annual Daffodil Tailgate Picnic in Sconset, a request from the Nantucket Chamber of Commerce, as well as the Nantucket Wine Festival’s grand tasting on May 21 and 22. The selectmen also approved a request for a waiver from the open alcohol container bylaw for the Daffodil picnic.

• Postponed a decision on a petition from National Grid and Verizon to install three new utility poles along Tennessee Avenue after several residents expressed concerns that the additions would hinder their sunset views. The board asked the residents to work with National Grid on a compromise solution.

• Appointed town treasury department employee Linda MacDonald to the assistant treasurer post.


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