SAN DIEGO — Electric pedicabs can now be spotted on nearly every corner in downtown San Diego, a sight many haven’t seen for years.

Electric pedicabs were banned, but after state legislation, are now allowed to make a comeback in the city.

Some drivers only use pedal-assisted bikes and no motors at all.

Lucas Stames said he has been a pedicab driver since 2016 and has watched the industry change over the years. His electric pedicab can go up to 20 miles per hour. Stames said there is about 150 pedicab drivers in downtown San Diego.

“A ride is typically $10-15 a person,” said Stames, but added that a long-ride can go up to $40 per person.

California legislation recently passed legislation that treats a pedicab as an electric bicycle.

Stames said after that was passed, drivers started adding motors back onto their pedicabs, but he did not like the idea and even tried to keep his business going without the motor.

“I worked a month where I didn’t have a motor but my competitors, they were just doing laps around me,” Stames said. “It’s basically I have to have a motor to keep up with my competitors.”

Stames said the positive side of the electric pedicabs is the physical part of the job, which makes it easier to do more trips, meaning more money. But he said he does not think it is as safe, and now there is more competition.

“This is a disaster. If it were up to me, I would go back to peddling,” Stames said.

Pedicabs are police-regulated, required to obtain a police permit and required to abide by the city code. They can also be stopped by an officer if they are in violation of the law.

“The big issue is whether or not they are operating safely, if they have their proper lighting, the proper permitting, people are using the seatbelts appropriately, those are the kinds of things officers look for,” said Lt. Adam Sharki with the San Diego Police Department.

People can report unsafe pedicab drivers to police, but Jonathan Freeman, who advocates for Safe Walkways in San Diego, wants the city to take another approach.

“Have the pedicabs uniquely identified an identifier that can be seen day and night, allow members of the public to report {violations} using the Get It Done app,” Freeman said.

He said he would like to see more regulation on reckless driving and said he has seen the electric pedicab drivers operate in an unsafe manner.

According to San Diego Municipal code, a pedicab driver could lose their operating permit immediately if the driver is operating the pedicab “in a manner that creates an immediate safety hazard.”

If pedicab drivers do not have a police permit, or do not display their proper Pedicab Restricted Zone Decal, they can be subject to being impounded.

If pedicab drivers do not comply with the California vehicle code that allows bicycles to operate on streets, or do not comply with insurance requirements, they can have their operating permit or pedicab decal denied, suspended or revoked.

The city code states violations, “may be prosecuted as misdemeanors punishable by a fine of not more than
one thousand dollars ($1,000) or by imprisonment in the County Jail for a period of not more than six months, or by both fine and imprisonment, except as otherwise stated in the California Vehicle Code.”