Pedal Power

Pedicab crackdown

Buzz Chattanooga was supposed to schlep people around the Tennessee city in the backs of jumbo, brightly colored tricycles. Christian “Thor” Thoreson and his partner Christina Holmes hoped their pedicab company would appeal to city officials aiming to boost tourism and minimize drunk driving and congestion. 

The pair jumped through dozens of regulatory hoops to get the business started, subjecting drivers to a special licensing process, drug screenings, and background checks. And they knew their business would be circumscribed by finicky rules: Pedicabs are not allowed to cruise the streets for customers (they must wait in designated areas for customers to find them) and cannot operate in public parks, for example. Furthermore, the number of available licenses is capped at just six pedicabs for a city of 170,000 people. 

But there was one regulation Thoreson and Holmes hoped to change. Section 35-251(3) of the Chattanooga City Code states that a “pedicab driver shall not operate a pedal carriage or pedicab on any bridge or in any tunnel.” The rule was designed to prevent dangerous situations at high speeds in cramped spaces. But Buzz mostly wanted access to the Walnut Street pedestrian bridge, a wide walkway connecting commercial districts, so it could ferry passengers to all parts of the city. No dice, said the city council.

Buzz celebrated its one-year anniversary in June. In August, unable to take passengers where they wanted to go and hurting for revenue, Buzz threw in the towel.

Asked by the Chattanooga Times Free Press what he would tell another entrepreneur considering starting a business in the Scenic City, Thoreson replied, “Stay the hell away.”  

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