Rickshaws, Pedicabs and Street Trader Licensing


Scotland’s two largest cities have both had some fairly recent attention in the very niche area of licensing and rickshaws or pedicabs. These foot-powered conveyances have attracted concern from both Glasgow and Edinburgh licensing committees.

A recent case from Glasgow sheriff court overturned the city councils refusal to licence rickshaws on the grounds of public safety. In the case of Robin Birrel v Glasgow City Council 2014 (unreported, Glasgow Sheriff Court, 7 February 2014), Mr Birrel applied for a street trader licence to operate a pedi cab in the city. Glasgow has licensed similar methods of transport previously. The council required that the conveyance be examined and reports were considered from the police and environmental services. The committee refused the application on the grounds that the vehicle was not “suitable or convenient” having regard to public safety and the character or condition of the vehicle. Environmental services had raised concerns about the use of the vehicle both in terms of passengers and also other road/pavement users, and that unlike (for example) private hire or taxi vehicles, there was no “build standard” and as such it was impossible to give the vehicle a clean bill of health. Specific issues included, for example, reference to the absence of three point seatbelts.

The decision itself seems to me at least to be a little unstructured, but the Sheriff, in upholding the appeal, is almost withering at times of the committees reliance on satements from environmental services which he says are not evidential but merely expressions of a view. The absence of a “build standard” for pedi cabs, for example, he argues does not mean the vehicle was unsafe and that the vehicle such as it was could have examined for structural integrity. The sheriff holds the view, therefore, that there was no “factual basis” for the decision to refuse. Whislt there was no evidence that the pedi cab was “safe” in comparion to some assessable minimum standard, there was also no evidence of any accidents or adverse incidents from those pedi cabs/rickshaws previously licensed by the committee before them, and no evidence that items such as a roll cage or the three point safety belt would provide additional safety.

The case stands for now but Glasgow city council may well take the matter on the Court of Session, and if so, that analysis of this decision will be most interesting.

Meanwhile, in the capital, it has been reported here that at the September 2014 meeting of the Edinburgh City Council licensing committee, two licences for rickshaws were renewed, notwithstanding objections from the council’s Environmental Services department who, according to the report, had accused the operators of contravening the Highway Code and driving outside of approved areas.

Looking further afield, London has a difficult history with the use of such conveyances. The Standard reported in June 2014 that a proposal to create a licensing system for pedicabs/rickshaws was underway in London, as a result of proposals from the Law Commission to modernise taxi and private hire car licensing in England & Wales, and that these would be issued by TfL. I will update this blog with details of that proposal when available.


About Stephen McGowan

Leading Scottish licensing solicitor at TLT LLP.
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One Response to Rickshaws, Pedicabs and Street Trader Licensing

  1. Pingback: Personal Licence Renewal in England & Wales

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