Pedicabs – or carriages pulled by bikes -- offer a unique and eco-friendly way to tour San Diego, but they’re starting to go electric, meaning they're faster and potentially more dangerous.
Pedicab operators say electric-assist motors make rides quicker, cheaper and less tiring.
“We can work longer than we use to, and it makes life easier for us and the customer” operator Andi Rodriguez said. He’s been pedaling San Diegans and tourists around for five years.
The new tech also helps out Rodriguez’s pockets.
“We can make more money, and we can do cheaper rides and go to places that before would be really hard to get,” Rodriguez said.
Ali Horuz, owner of VIP Pedicabs, says going electric has brought a huge boost to his industry.
“We can now compete with Uber with all the scooters that really took all our business in the last couple of years,” Horuz said.
Horuz says he has transformed 30 of his 100 pedicabs from manual to electric.
“It’s is a very hard job and sometimes you have five people and you want to go up one location to another and it's really hard for one person to do, but now we have motors so they don't have to pedal that hard,” he explained.
Meanwhile, advocates for pedestrian safety say the move to electric has made the area significantly much more dangerous
“Something awful is going to happen and someone will be injured or killed,” said Jonathan Freeman with pedestrian safety advocacy group Safe Walkways.
“I became concerned probably a couple of weeks ago because I suddenly saw pedicabs being driven at what seemed like an incredibly fast speed,” Freeman said.
Electric bikes, like the ones used for pedicabs are not allowed to travel more than 20 miles per hour, according to state law.
Horuz said he requires all his drivers to go no more than 12 miles per hour and so far he’s had no issues or complaints about his operators
Still, Freeman believes police need to be more involved
“There are three things the city needs: it needs regulations, it needs monitoring to make sure the regulations are being applied and it needs enforcement,” he said.
NBC 7 reached to San Diego police, which issues permits for pedicab drivers, to ask what type of action they were taking against unsafe drivers but did not hear back.
Electric pedicabs aren’t new to San Diego. They were permitted in the past up until 2015 when they were banned by the city. Today, they are once again legal due to a new state law that treats the vehicles as electric bikes.