The Omaha Police Department has drafted an ordinance to prohibit the use of certain vehicles near the stadium during the College World Series. The prohibited vehicles include rickshaws, pedicycles, quadracycles, and horse-drawn carriages. That is, it would ban human and animal-powered vehicles. The police say this is for reasons of safety and to avoid increased congestion. We think limiting transportation options is a bad idea for several reasons.
First, the OPD has not produced any evidence to show that these non-gas powered vehicles have caused any safety issues as is claimed in the ordinance (how many accidents took place or tickets given?). Given the amount of pedestrian traffic in and around the stadium, if they do serve to slow down automobile traffic as the ordinance claims, might this actually be safer for pedestrians and bicyclists in the area? Is it fair to ban one form of transportation but not others? Don’t motorized vehicles also present a safety concern? If congestion is the problem, perhaps all vehicles should be prohibited from operating near the stadium?
Second, the ordinance discourages the entrepreneurs who create jobs and meet a demand created by thousands of visitors moving around the city during the CWS. They provide fun, efficient transportation options for CWS attendees. Why, in these tough economic times, would the City want to quash an emerging market? These non-motorized forms of transportation add jobs, and contribute to festive atmosphere surrounding the CWS.
Third, there seem to be several alternatives to an outright ban. The City might create a licensing system to regulate these conveyances to ensure any potential safety issues are addressed. The City might charge a fee for such licensing, to cover the cost of the program. The City and OPD could work with the owners of these non-motorized vehicles to create preferred routes that would ensure appropriate traffic flow. As a group interested in promoting transportation options for everyone in our city, we would willingly work with City and OPD officials to help come up with solutions to whatever issues need to be addressed to avoid limiting the active transportation options of Omahans and our guests.
Before we ban an entire class of conveyance we need to see evidence and we need to have a public debate. Banning these modes of transportation sets a terrible precedent and message that Omaha does not support small businesses or choice in how we get around the city. Surely we can work together to come up with a better solution.
Please email or call your city council representative before 2:00pm on December 6 and let them know if you are in favor of excluding these modes of transportation from the CWS, or if you prefer policies that encourage a diverse range of options for transportation and commerce. If you can, also come to the City Council meeting on Tuesday, December 6 to express your opinion (the ordinance is item #62 on the City Council’s agenda; the meeting starts at 2:00pm at 1819 Farnam St.).