Prosecutors use 19th Century Act to bring charge, Boris promises to get tough on rickshaws

The driver of a London rickshaw has been fined £100 and has to pay costs totalling a further £145 after being caught racing another rickshaw along a busy street in the West End.

Md Islam, aged 21, pleaded guilty at Westminster Magistrates’ Court to a charge brought under section 54 of the Metropolitan Police Act 1839.

That legislation, originally designed to address the “furious riding” of horse-drawn carts, is now being used by police to address issues related to rickshaws - also known as pedicabs - reports the London Evening Standard.

The Act makes it an offence to be engaged in the  “riding or driving furiously such as to endanger the life or limb of any person, or to the common danger of the passengers in the thoroughfare.”

Prosecutor Rav Chodha told the court: “The defendant had passengers in his pedicab and the nature of his driving, weaving in and out of heavy traffic, was causing a danger to both passengers and other road users.”

She said that the passengers in his rickshaw at the time of the incident on the evening of 23 March had been “screaming and shouting,” and were also attempting to slap the hands of those in the other rickshaw.

“The defendant was observed for some time and then stopped and arrested,” she added.

District Judge Michael Snow told Islam that he was fortunate not to have faced more serious charges, saying, “This has been under-charged; this was potentially very serious.

“Cycling like this through central London with passengers, and putting passengers, pedestrians and drivers at risk is clearly very serious,” he added.

Islam, of East Ham, admitted breaching section 54 of the Metropolitan Police Act 1839 and besides the £100 fine has to pay £85 costs, a £15 victim surcharge and £45 to Westminster City Council for storing his rickshaw.

The Evening Standard reports that police are currently clamping down on rickshaw drivers in the West End, and quoted a senior officer as saying that since there was no legislation specific to the vehicles, it was “using the tools available.”

The Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, which represents London’s black cab drivers, has campaigned for rickshaws to be banned from the capital’s streets. The London Pedicab Operators Association, meanwhile, is lobbying for licensing to be introduced, rather than rickshaws being banned outright.

In his Transport Manifesto for next month’s mayoral elections, current Mayor of London Boris Johnson says that it is out of his power to take such action, but adds that he does intend to tackle the issue if re-elected.

“Rickshaws, or pedicabs, have proliferated in central London in recent years. Unregulated, often uninsured, usually over-priced and frequently dangerous, they have attracted increasing complaints from other road users about their behaviour and about the many close misses that have nearly costs lives,’ his manifesto says.

“The Mayor does not have the powers to ban them, but I am already using the powers I do have to crack down on badly conducted rickshaws in London. I will do so increasingly in partnership with other agencies, such as the UK Border Agency and HM Revenue and Customs.”

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.