There has been an xenophobic tone to this thread. This is sad in a progressive place with a long history of immigration like San Diego. That being said plenty of Americans do this job in Austin, Texas. For the past two years I have been one of them. They have been two of the best years of my life.The difference from Austin to San Diego is that Austin requires the following things to get your Pedicab Operators license:
1) Texas drivers license
2) Criminal back ground check
3) Driving history for the last 3 years
4) Passing a written chauffeurs test to get a commercial chauffeurs license.
In short we must meet the same requirements placed on Taxi, Limo, Horse carriage, and Shuttle van drivers.
A few of the San Diego pedicab shop owners are hiring a whole bunch of J1 visa holders for the summer. They J1 kids are put in a bad situation where the streets are over crowded with pedicabs, they are in debt when they get here, they can’t quit or they risk deportation if they do not find another job. So to make the money back that they need to break even or get ahead, they are pressured engage in exploitative behavior.
Treat some one badly, and they behave badly. When so many are behaving badly, those that do follow rules and treat their customers well get really tired of being associated with the bad actors within industry and quit, leaving behind a worse crowd.
This situation was created by lax local supervision and near non-existent regulation, a few overly ambitious pedicab shop owners, visa agencies that fill these kids heads full of get quick rich in America dreams and saddle them with debt, and naivety on the part of the J1 students. What might have been a good deal for them in the past has been getting steadily worse.
Hopefully this exploitation will end soon with a cap on the number of pedicabs operating, and requirements similar to those placed on taxi drivers. If those requirements are not possible due to loopholes in the California legal code, the city should require that their drivers pass an extensive bicycle safety course and written test that specifically covers the rules pedicab operators must follow.
Having been an undocumented worker living abroad, I can tell you that the stress to just survive and make it home with a little money in your pocket is tremendous. Try having some sympathy for the J1 visa holders. They did not create this mess, they are pawns in a larger racket.
UPDATE: The State of Texas also requires people getting a drivers license to show them a social security card, or similar document before the drivers license will be issued. More info here: http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/administration/driver_licensing_control/identificationrequirements.htm
Dale Hill of Pops pedicabs had the following to say in response to the above comment:
Hey Ken, good to see you jumping in on this thread, you guys in Austin have got to be rockin’ with the way Lance is riding this year’s Tour
Having been in this market now going on 5 years, I’ll add my perspective to your comments. San Diego’s pedicab regulations are actually sound, not overly restrictive while covering essential elements for safe operation. Subsequent amendments passed in 2006, and the current amendments in Council as we speak, tweak the existing rules to tighten them down and give them a little more teeth - they address specific problems that have really come to a head in the last 5 years. This is a positive sign that as the situation changes, the rules that govern it change as well.
The problem however is that the change in regulations always lags behind the changes on the street. The City cannot/has not acted fast enough to keep up with the rapidly growing pedicab market.
The second issue is one of enforcement, if existing rules aren’t enforced, they’re meaningless. If the more unscrupulous of our industry realize the rules aren’t going to be enforced, it makes it all the easier for them to blow them off.
As I mentioned in an earlier post today, the amendments that the Council was jumping behind today were actually drafted by the SDPD over a year ago, we had meetings with San Diego Pedicab Owners, Operators and the Police Department to review and comment on the proposed changes. These changes finally made it before Council last month - they should have been before council last year.
I do believe the implementation of restricted zones as proposed in the new amendments is a positive step, it will reduce the bikes on the street in those congested zones from a high of 642 (number from a SDPD census taken last July) to approximately 250. The J-1 Visa program will likely become self correcting, there was a time when there were a lot fewer cabs on the street that the prospect of making decent money pedicabbing was real. The lure of cash-for-pedaling drew an increasing number of students to pedicab opportunities. As the word trickles back through the system, that “hey, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be” students will be less likely to pursue a pedicab position. What a lot of folks don’t realize, there are a lot of students that come to the United States on J-1 visas every year, they all don’t pedicab. Too, while I may call them kids (because I have kids their age) - they are adults and they should be responsible to research what they’re getting into.
Again nice to see your input here, Best Regards,
The following is an earlier reply to some questions about Why J1 visa holders would be employed as pedicab drivers:
There have been a lot of people asking about J1 visas and pedicab drivers. The following links may provide some background info:
The issue of J1 visa holders working as pedicab drivers has been controversial in the pedicab community. A long and impolite discussion on this subject can be found here:
For those who are not yet bored to tears, read some of the State Department’s rules on J1 Jobs:
What I took away from the State department’s info is that J1 Visa holders can be treated like indentured servants. If they are fired from the job they have 2 weeks to find another job or leave the country. Combine the cost of travel, high fees that visa agencies charge to the workers the rent they have to pay for the bikes and their housing, visa agencies and the pedicab companies have created a very difficult situation for their student workers.