These things are terrible for a number of reasons.
1) Of the 10 I've seen on the fourth, I have yet to see a single one pedaling.
2) The taxi operators I have witnessed don't appear to be physically fit to pedal, which makes me question whether the pedals are just a gimmick.
3) Somehow they either a) have the arrogance or b) don't know any better on appropriateness of bike lanes. I saw them hauling ass on Market Street through the bike lanes faster than the hundreds of people on Healthy Ride bikes. They also were on the 'closed to cyclists' Roberto Clemente Bridge during a Pirate game. Which is confusing to me since I've been told to walk my bike across the RCB during a Pirate game.
4) These don't belong in pedestrian heavy areas. They are cars. Running them across the Fort Duquesne Bridge walkway is not a good idea.
5) Being electric golf carts and claiming them as bicycles, the bikelash will continue against us. Especially if you're going to haul ass through the city and dangerously interact with pedestrians and other bikers.
How do we nip this one in the bud?
Perhaps one approach is the definition of a legit electric bicycle.
Do they meet PA specs, which are more restrictive than Federal specs?
On October 22, 2014 PA house bill 573 passed into law, which is Act 154, which changes the definition of "pedalcycle" (bicycle) in the PA state vehicle code. "Pedalcycle" is now defined as a vehicle propelled solely by human-powered pedals or a "pedalcycle" (bicycle) with electric assist
( a vehicle weighing not more than 100 pounds
with two or three wheels more than 11 inches in diameter
, manufactured or assembled with an electric motor rated no more than 750 watts
and equipped with operational pedals and travels at speeds less than 20 mph). This bill allows the usage of pedal assisted bicycles in PA that follow the adopted state guidelines.
The developer of these "autopods" asserts in the Trib
that they're considered electric assist bikes (by whom?). If they mean legally, that would make them legal on bike lanes and bike paths.
On the other hand, this article
says they had to modify the vehicles, "adding a stronger fiberglass frame and turn signals in order to qualify for operation on U.S. streets." I'm not aware of any PA law that would require such modifications for an e-bike, and it looks like federal regulations just require
them to meet the rules for bikes
(pdf with very detailed description of bike construction and testing requirements, including stuff like the federally mandated toe clearance of 89 mm). So perhaps they don't really meet all the e-bike rules?
In the Trib they credit Bike Pittsburgh and Mayer Peduto with helping them get started here.
I would think a second approach to influencing this might be restricing the use of bikelanes / bike trails / bridge ramps by commercial vehicles.
The questions of Specs and CommercialUse are double-edged swords.
There's a lot of ebikes that don't meet the weight restriction in the PA spec; I don't want to hurt a bunch of non-commercial folks who want to ride ebikes on the trail.
I also do not want to hurt the existing (person-powered) rickshaw operation(s?) or bike courier services in Pgh; I support them so any attempt to address commercial use of the bridges/paths/lanes is going to carry unintended, undesirable consequences.
I have had the opportunity to watch them all day at the valet parking- they do sometimes pedal, but usually not. More often when there are people in the back.
They are piloted by people. People, as we all know, have a propensity for doing stupid things. I suspect that most of the time they will act in a safe, responsible manner. If they don't, they should be singled out on their stupidity.
That said, I'm generally OK with them operating in various places. I also reserve the right to change my mind.
...or someone (Scott, Erok, Peduto?) could talk to the owner of this startup to let them know that some of their drivers are being... less than nice. Then legislate/ticket if behavior doesn't change.
I have no problem with someone not pedaling. If someone wanted to dispense with the smoke 'n mirrors and start a golf-cart short distance taxi service I say go for it. I feel differently about almost running down pedestrians or making bike lanes dangerous however.
We should all be able to play nicely with each other, right?
(editing my initial comment down to the bone...) People are stupid.
I don't care if these are on the streets, but I do not want them in the bikelanes, bikeways, or sidewalks.
If pedaling is optional, then it's not a bicycle, it's a moped, and it doesn't belong on bike infrastructure. I'd be less concerned if these were pedal assist, not throttle driven.
I hold the same opinion for off-road ebikes. If you don't have to pedal, it's a dirt bike, GTFO the mountain bike trails.
In principle I'm with Marko, though the complaint that they're going too fast and creating danger for pedestrians and cyclists isn't new anymore. That complaint might be inevitable, but I also, at the back of my mind, am starting to wonder... is there something intrinsically incompatible about the psychology of effortless power even if the top end, weight, and size are somewhat kept in check? I know often when I'm cranking pretty hard and see a jam ahead it's very easy to reconcile it as an opportunity to catch a breather and that effect somewhat reduces the extent to which I might be an asshole on the road otherwise.
I think they're cute.
1. They fill a gap between taxis and share-bikes.
2. They belong in the street; they're too wide for bike lanes.
3. They are perfect for encouraging civilized car speeds (see 2.)
What Benzo and Ahlir said.
fwiw, we met with them and they promised not to use the bike lanes anymore. please let us know if they continue to do so
They look like they weigh more than 100 pounds which would make them a motorcycle.
Sort of. If they're over 100 pounds, they'd likely be treated by PA law as a "motorized pedalcycle".
To be in that category, they'd need to be "equipped with operable pedals and an automatic transmission powered by an electric battery or battery pack-powered electric motor with a maximum design speed of no more than 25 miles per hour", with a "motor which produces not to exceed five brake horsepower".
By law, a motorized pedalcycle is a type of motor-driven cycle, which in turn is a type of motorcycle. But there are a few differences between the general "motorcycle" category and the more specific "motorized pedalcycle" category:
A motorized pedalcycle is prohibited on limited-access highways, and its operator isn't required to wear a helmet and eye protection.
There's no required inspection.
You may not need a specialized motorcycle license (Class M), only a Class C license.
You may not need a certificate of title in some circumstances.
The $9 registration fee is half what motorcycle riders pay.
I see last week Vannevar asked on Autopod's Facebook page how much the vehicles weigh, but they haven't deigned to reply. I just sent them an email asking the same thing. I think it's possible they could be under 100 pounds, in which case none of this post would apply, but I can't really tell from the photos.
This is a bit of a fantasy, but...
In the primeval dawn days, if you were a recycler, you would fill your car with whatever (paper, glass) and drive out to either this place on the South Side (paper) or Glenshaw (glass). They would weight your car and record it (using a real balance beam thing!); you would then dump your load and get reweighted. The difference in pounds multiplied by that day's price would net you some money.
In the end it probably wasn't worth the effort. But it did made us feel good about this whole recycling/whatever thing.
So anyway, if one of these places still exists why not hire a rickshaw take it there and use the scales to find out its real weight? Yes, you could go to a truck-stop but wouldn't that mean schlepping out a ways into the country? I'm not in the business; maybe you know better.
Or just use a shipping scale
. Stick a sheet of plywood or something on top to hold up the vehicle.
Wouldn't the makers of these vehicles know their weight? Does the website give any specs on the vehicles?
If I could pick up the end of one I could give a reasonable guess if they were over 100 pounds. My Motobecane Grand Touring (with bags and tools) is about 40 pounds.
Just park each wheel on a bathroom scale and add up the readings. My guess is it's well over 100#.
Agway or Best Feeds or any other garden store would have a similar scale.
I kind of like the idea of ambling up to one of those rickshaws, (pink?) bathroom scale under one of your arms and asking, politely, "excuse me sir/ma'am, might it be possible to weigh your wheels? won't take but a moment. thank you!"
I don't want to go pitchforking and flaming a unique idea. These guys should be able to operate their small niche business during a few months per year without a ton of red tape. Akin to Uber or Lyft coming in and disrupting the market. I like it.
I just don't want them in bike lanes. And it sounds like Bike PGH called them out on it.
This was only a test. We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.
Yes, I'm all for more centralized companies exploiting poor people, like Lyft and Uber. Great business model.
@erok, Friday July 17, 8:34 pm, in the sixth avenue bike lane across from the Renaissance Pittsburgh - between Ft. Duquesne Blvd and McCrea Way - heading southbound (toward Penn Ave) there was a green autopod in the bike lane (with the operator not pedaling but relying on the electric motor).
If they said they're staying out of the bike lanes, I saw two of these today and 50% of them (one) were in bike lanes. I don't want to be the green-autopod QA dept, but they really shouldn't be in the bike lanes OR on the trails.
@erok, Friday 9.25.2015 around 4pm, a disabled Autopod in Giovanni's livery was stopped/ parked / stranded in the Penn Ave bike lane.
There was a more detailed discussion on Facebook about this. Apparently it broke down, and this was the handiest place to let it sit until a tow showed up.
I often see this Autpod riding in the bike lanes at about 5 mph, slowing everyone down in the process. Also, depending on who parks the thing, it often times is partially parked in the 6th street bike lane.
I am unconvinced that this broke down in the car lane and was pushed into the bike lane. But i look forward to enlightenment.
I dont want to wrap around the axle on this Autopod. However i dont want to see a flourish of vespa's, golf carts, and beer peddler vehicles.
The only criteria i know of is the PA definition of bikes, ebikes, and pedicabs. This vehicle does not meet any of those definitions.
But fwiw: what goes into a bus lane? _____________
What goes into an hov lane? ________________
What goes into a bike lane? _________