NEW YORK — Pedicabs will have to follow new rate rules by next summer under a plan Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed Thursday to rein in runaway fares for the pedal-powered taxis.
The new law aims to keep pedicab passengers from being taken for a ride by confusing charges that can add up to more than some airline tickets. In one infamous episode this summer, a Texas family paid more than $400 for a 14-block pedicab jaunt.
Bloomberg had held off signing the law Wednesday, saying he wanted more information after a pedicab driver complained about it.
"That's not to say I won't sign it," Bloomberg said then, but "I just don't want to rush into anything."
After looking into it further, the mayor decided it would create a reasonable fare system and increase protections for passengers, spokeswoman Evelyn Erskine said.
About 700 pedicabs now operate in the city, according to the New York City Pedicab Owners' Association. The pedal cabs, which have three-passenger carriages, are popular with tourists as a way to see Central Park and other Manhattan sights.
Most pedicabs now charge by block and per passenger, sometimes adding various fees. The new measure requires them to charge by the minute – with clearly visible timers. It takes effect in six months.
It will ensure "no pedicab rider will be surprised with unknown, illegal, or unexpected charges at the end of their ride," the law's sponsor, City Councilman Daniel Garodnick, said in a statement Thursday. The council approved the measure last month.
The owners' association supports the new rules. The group, which represents owners of about 100 pedicabs, says it has made its own efforts to take on drivers who overcharge.
"We're just basically crossing our fingers that it will work. It may not work for everyone," but it should help, co-founder Peter Meitzler said Thursday.
But owner-driver Ibrahim Donmez told Bloomberg at a City Hall event Wednesday that the new rules wouldn't standardize fares because drivers pedal at different speeds. And Donmez said the city was unfair in general to the pedal taxis, claiming they're subjected to stricter enforcement than yellow cabs are.
Donmez said Thursday he would consider legal options for fighting the new fare rules.
Pedicab owners sued over a 2007 city law that set licensing and safety standards and capped the citywide pedicab fleet at 325; the City Council had approved that measure over Bloomberg's veto. The city and pedicab owners later agreed to licensing and safety rules, which Bloomberg signed in 2009.
Last year, Bloomberg signed another measure that required drivers to obey parking rules that apply to motorists. That law also capped the citywide fleet at 850, the number then licensed.