Rickshaw riders threaten to sue over Glasgow ban

RICKSHAW drivers are battling to overturn a council ban which is keeping the transport off the streets of Glasgow.

Rickshaw riders on the streets of Edinburgh. The transport is banned in Glasgow. Picture: TSPL
Rickshaw riders on the streets of Edinburgh. The transport is banned in Glasgow. Picture: TSPL

The city council started licensing “pedicabs” as street traders in 2009 and Glasgow boasted ten licensed operators at the height of their popularity.

But it began to refuse to renew licences in 2010, claiming there were safety concerns that had not been addressed.

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Council officials insisted they were willing to allow rickshaws on the city’s streets if owners presented a European standard against which their safety could be measured, but this has not been done to date.

Owen O’Neill, who runs Evolution Rickshaws which operates successfully in Edinburgh, said: “I want to give jobs to people and set up a successful business in Glasgow.

“I’ve showed the council safety certificates for the rickshaws I use, but they still don’t believe they are safe. It’s just getting 

Mr O’Neill said the council used rickshaws to publicise the launch of the new Hydro venue by the Clyde. However, he says he was told by officials it was a one-off event and that no street-trader licence was needed.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Mr O’Neill said. “How could they say it was fine for those rickshaws, but it’s not OK for others?”

Norman Armstrong, 56, who runs cycle project Free Wheel North at Glasgow Green, was a rickshaw operator for two years before he was refused a licence renewal. He said: “Rickshaws are a sustainable form of transport and the council should be encouraging them.”

Tom Brown, 49, who uses a rickshaw billboard to advertise a travel firm in the city, said: “In the eight years I’ve been doing this, I’ve never had an accident. It’s a bike – tourists like to see it, even people who live in Glasgow like to see it.

“People used to use it for getting a lift to the taxi rank after a night out. I’ve never heard anyone complaining about them.”

In 2010, Corporal Christopher O’Kane, 26, died after falling from a rickshaw and striking his head on the ground on a night out in Edinburgh. A few years earlier, a 22-year-old woman was injured in Edinburgh when her scarf became tangled in the wheels of the rickshaw in which she was travelling.

Glasgow City Council said a 2011 consultation identified safety concerns about the rickshaws, including that only one seatbelt was used for all passengers and that there was no kind of safety frame or roll bar.

There were meetings with operators in 2012 but the council said it was still waiting for a suitable standard against which to compare Glasgow vehicles.

A spokesman said: “If we are going to license a vehicle, it needs to be safe – potential passengers wouldn’t expect anything else. We are trying to give the trade time to get a vehicle tested or demonstrate that they can meet safety standards.”

Rickshaw operators are reportedly considering legal action over the issue.

Some cities around the world have specific licences for rickshaws, but restrictions vary. They are a common form of transport in countries such as Thailand and India.