CITY HALL UPDATE // City Council passes new regulations for pedicab drivers

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October 24, 2011 // UPDATED 9:06 am - October 24, 2011
By: Nick Halter
Nick Halter

Though they’ve been legal 27 years, Minneapolis has never had more than two licensed pedicabs operating in the city at the same time.

That was until 2009, when the industry exploded. Now there are 41 licensed pedicabs in the city, prompting the City Council to pass several new regulations to the burgeoning industry.

Pedicabs — small taxi cars pulled by bicycles — will need liability insurance of at least $1 million and be equipped with a full breaking system, lights and a horn. Drivers will not be allowed to smoke or drink while operating pedicabs, and they will need to be fully clothed, according to new regulations passed by the City Council on Oct. 7. Pedicabs will not be allowed to play amplified music and the cabs will be limited to two passengers.

In exchange for stricter regulations, the City Council eased restrictions on hours of operations, allowing pedicabs to run during the morning and evening rush hour — times when pedicabs had not been allowed to do business prior to the ordinance amendments.

The city will also bump up license fees. Pedicabs already cost $96 a year to license, but the city is adding a $59 fee to license pedicab drivers.

Council takes aim at recreational fires

The Minneapolis Public Health, Safety and Civil Rights Committee has begun looking into new regulations that would crack down on residential fires.

Ward 10 Council Member Meg Tuthill and other council members are asking two citizen committees to look into, among other things, the possibility of requiring residents to get a sign-off from their neighbors or get a permit from the Fire Department before starting a blaze.

“I don’t think we’ve even scratched the surface of what we should do in the city,” Tuthill said.

Minneapolis residents currently do not need a permit to start a recreational fire, but they must meet city code that requires fire pits to be smaller than 3 feet across, flames lower than 2 feet high and a pit more than 25 feet from any structure. Fires aren’t allowed when the wind is blowing more than 10 miles per hour and after 10 p.m.

But Tuthill, as well as Assistant Fire Chief Dave DeWall, said many residents complain about smoke, especially those with asthma.  

The city’s environmental staff, citing federal Environmental Protection Agency air monitoring data, said about 75 percent of particulate matter in the air comes from burning fossil fuels, and about 7 percent comes from biomass.

In 2010, the Fire Department received 426 calls about residential burning, up 19 percent from 2007, when the department fielded 344 calls.

Tuthill also raised concerns over old homes in Minneapolis, and the risk they’re at when fires are burning nearby.

The committee referred the issue to the Citizens Environmental Advisory Committee and the Public Health Advisory Committee.

Budget director leaving for Burnsville post

Minneapolis residents probably know Heather Johnston as the person who comes into their communities to explain the complicated city budget in terms they can understand.

But Johnson won’t be at those meetings this fall, because on Oct. 18, after nearly eight years, she left her post as the city’s management and budget director.

Johnston will take over as the city of Burnsville’s chief financial officer and director of administrative services.

Johnston played a major role in reforming the city’s pension obligations, rolling the funds into a statewide plan. She also was instrumental in the city’s library merger.