Downtown transportation gets new competition

Image by flickr user Smudge 9000Image by 20080716biketaxi.jpg Did you know that the city of Charleston only lets 15 rickshaws operate on its streets?

Bike taxis, pedicabs, rickshaws ... It doesn't matter what you call them, there's a new kid in town: the smart cart. OK, it's essentially a golf cart, but it's definitely making waves in the downtown transportation scene.

But it's also serious business, because there's a limited amount of space in town even for the peddlers. The city only allows 15 bike taxis, and those spots are given out through a quarterly lottery. Needless to say, this smart cart thing, defined legally as a low-speed vehicle and not really covered by city ordinance, has the bike folks a little irritated.

From The Post and Courier:

Before rolling out his first cart over Fourth of July weekend, (Smart Cart Limo Service owner Tim) Holbrook met with his lawyers and determined that the city has no regulations that directly apply to his brand of motor coach. By law, low-speed vehicles must meet all the regulations as a car, and are restricted to streets with posted speed limits of 35 mph or under.

Joel Carl, owner of Charleston Pedicab, said that's his company's chief complaint. The city only allows 15 regulated rickshaws, divided among three companies, on the street at one time.

"You might have a chauffeur's license, but that doesn't give you the right to drive any vehicle," Carl said.

And while the city will, one imagines, eventually get around to regulating the smart carts, first they have to figure out what it is exactly that they're dealing with. Should it be treated like a taxi? Obviously it's more than a rickshaw. But, whatever the city decides, the guys over at Smart Cart aren't worried, as The Post and Courier continues:

Holbrook said he welcomes any future city oversight, hoping his Smart Cart Limo Service will set the precedent. "I would hate for it to get as unregulated as the rickshaws have come to be," he said.

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