For several years, Madison has required bicycle cabs to get the same permit that auto cabs get. To date, only one bike cab driver has ever obtained the permit.
It's easy to understand why: The annual taxi permit costs $1,200, and there's another $60 annual fee for each vehicle.
Bike cabs get around licensing requirement by working only for tips. Ald. Mike Verveer wants to tweak the system by drastically lowering the fee for bike cabs to $125, even if they're only working for tips. His goal isn't to crack down on the bike cabs, which he likes, but to protect consumers.
Verveer notices that on some busy weekends, a lot of bike cabs from outside Madison are roaming the streets. "You just wonder who these people are," he says. "Are they adhering to safety rules and basic consumer protections? By requiring them to be licensed we can ensure that they have proper safety equipment and that their bikes are inspected."
One bike cabbie, who prefers not to be named, says the reduced fee is reasonable but probably wouldn't make much difference.
"It doesn't really matter because there's not much of a market for it in Madison. There's such a ridiculous amount of work that goes into it. The hills are brutal. You have to work insanely long hours. I don't know how much longer I want to do it."