ST. PETERSBURG — Pub crawls just got a tad faster.
The City Council voted 8-0 Thursday to approve an ordinance that allows open-air party buses powered by a dozen pedaling passengers.
Dubbed pedibuses, the vehicles can seat 14 to 16 passengers (only 12 actually pedal) and will be geared for the bar-hopping crowd along Central Avenue and Beach and Bayshore drives. They could debut on city streets with speed limits less than 30 mph by mid November.
While faster than stumbling from bar to bar, the vehicles don't break any speed records. If you climb aboard and start pedaling with your drinking buds, don't expect to go faster than 5 to 7 miles per hour.
As the unanimous vote can attest, the idea is popular with council members, who are eager to promote local restaurants and bars. But Mayor Bill Foster and police said they had some safety concerns.
Council members were slated to vote on an ordinance allowing the vehicles on streets where the posted limit was 35 mph.
Foster hinted he would make that his first veto if the council were to approve it.
"I think it's a very dangerous proposition," Foster said. "You're mixing 12-passenger vehicles with cars. Those two don't mix. You're mixing gasoline and a match."
Council members quickly changed the ordinance so that the pedibuses would be limited to streets with a 30 mph speed limit or less. St. Petersburg police Lt. William Korinek said even with the change, he had concerns about drivers making sudden moves to pass the pedibuses, and tipsy passengers falling into traffic.
But the vehicles are safe, said Rhett Reynolds, a 25-year-old entrepreneur who plans to start business in November. He said he hopes to have a second pedibus hit the streets by February.
"I understand their concerns, but these vehicles are very safe," Reynolds said. "No one has ever fallen off."
Reynolds and his company, City Cycle Tours, are based in St. Paul-Minneapolis, part of a joint venture with an engineering company, Caztek Engineering, which manufactures the vehicles. Chicago, Austin (Texas), Denver, Savannah (Georgia) and Milwaukee have the vehicles, which are about 20 feet long with a roof about 9 feet tall, said Casimir Sienkiewicz, president of Caztek. Passengers sit facing inward, around a bar. No drinks will be allowed, however.
"It's all people power, and they're getting more popular," Sienkiewicz said.
The City Council is scheduled to give final approval during its Oct. 20 meeting. Another company, PedalPub, also based in St. Paul-Minneapolis, has plans to start operations as well.
After the council tweaked the ordinance, Foster was on board.
"We're not antibusiness," Foster said. "It's a nice feature in a business area that attracts tourists. I just want to make sure it's safe."
Michael Van Sickler can be reached at (727) 893-8037 or firstname.lastname@example.org.