The Fresno Pedal Company's Hawaiian- themed "Party Bike" is a 14-passenger, pedal-powered vehicle. The City of Fresno is looking to regulate the use of such bikes, which would include allowing passengers to drink and carry alcohol. Photo contributed
Written by David Castellon
Chances are you’ve seen pedicabs if you frequent nightspots and popular tourist areas of Fresno.
But those cabs — usually powered by a single bicyclist carrying no more than two or three passengers — are likely to be joined soon by other pedal-powered vehicles.
On Thursday, the Fresno City Council cast its first vote on an ordinance that would set up a licensing system and rules for the use of “party bikes” and pedal cabs on some Fresno streets.
Party bikes aren’t actually bikes, as they generally are on four wheels and can seat at least eight people, all of whom provide peddling power while somebody up front handles the steering and braking.
Under the proposed ordinance introduced by City Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria, party bikes — invented in the late 1990s in the Netherlands — could operate with up to 15 passengers in Fresno.
The ordinance also sets up a series of rules for operating the vehicles, including that they can be run only in areas of the city with speed limits of 30 mph or less, which would cover much of downtown, including Fulton Street and the Tower District, noted Terry Cox, Soria’s chief of staff.
But a key element of the ordinance is that party bike and pedicab passengers would be able to carry and drink alcohol. That means operators, who couldn’t drink or carry alcohol, could take passengers on tours of breweries or bars, and the passengers could bring their drinks with them.
In fact, some party bikes have countertops so passengers can sit and drink like they’re at a bar while peddling.
City Council members unanimously approved the first reading of the ordinance on Thursday, and if they approve it following a second reading next month, it will take effect, Cox said.
She said the ordinance was requested by the operators of Fresno Pedal Company, which for a year has operated a 14-seat Hawaiian-decorated party bike for tours and party excursions through parts of Fresno — mostly the Tower District and other parts of downtown.
The business’ operator, Brandon Johnson, said California’s governor signed a law in 2015 allowing cities and counties in the state to adopt ordinances allowing party bikes to operate in their jurisdictions, but Fresno city officials granted him a license to operate with no such ordinance in place.
Johnson said that as far as he knows, his is the only party bike operating in the city, and he asked for the ordinance to ensure there are rules for him and anybody else starting comparable businesses in the future.
He said the ordinance has the support of the Downtown Fresno Partnership, the Tower District Marketing Committee, Full Circle Brewing Co. and the Tioga-Sequoia Brewing Co., who see party bikes as a way to promote downtown nightspots and other businesses