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One pedibus operator says St. Petersburg rules don't suit her

ST. PETERSBURG — Open-air party buses are now allowed on some city streets, but not everyone is celebrating.

Take Krista Bertelson. She is the manager of PedalPub, a St. Paul-Minneapolis-based company that operates a fleet of 16-seat vehicles where passengers provide the horse power by pedaling. Along with a rival company, City Cycle Tours, PedalPub had pushed the City Council to pass new rules allowing the vehicles, which will be used mostly to ferry bar patrons up and down Central Avenue and Beach Drive.

But when council members approved the new rules last week , Bertelson was no longer on board. The reason? Too many rules made it unlikely her company could succeed, she said.

"We can't move forward with these changes," Bertelson said.

Among the rules:

• No alcohol shall be served on board.

• All pedibuses must be limited to streets with speed limits of 30 mph or less.

• Pedibuses can't operate near Tropicana Field for three hours before and two hours after events at the stadium. The Tampa Bay Rays, who play 81 games in Tropicana Field, have to approve any changes to the traffic pattern, which could be disrupted by the vehicles.

• Operators must carry liability insurance of at least $5 million to cover personal injury or death or property damage or destruction.

Although popular in cities such as Chicago, Austin (Texas) and Denver, St. Petersburg officials have viewed pedibuses warily. Rhett Reynolds of City Cycle Tours approached council member Karl Nurse last year. Nurse endorsed the concept, in part because it would inject energy along a Central Avenue corridor that needs it.

But city staffers had reservations about safety and traffic flow. Mayor Bill Foster initially threatened to veto the buses, but he backed away when they agreed to limit them to streets with a speed limit of 30 mph or less.

Bertelson said the added regulations didn't work for her. She found an ally in Mark Ferguson, proprietor of Ferg's Sports Bar & Grill, who told council members they needed to soften the rules.

"With the regulations you have on her now, I wouldn't bother," Ferguson said.

Reynolds told council members before the meeting that he would bother. He plans to open his business in November, despite the added regulations. That was enough to persuade the council to approve the new rules.

"I was disappointed the city made it bureaucratic," Nurse said. "But my hope is that we can get it started, and we can find that most of the anxieties we had were unnecessary and we can relax the rules."

One pedibus operator says St. Petersburg rules don't suit her 10/25/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 25, 2011 1:43pm]
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