This article is the opinion of the writer, which is based on the facts presented by the world around us.
This is a follow-up article to our publication yesterday on Pedal Pub’s operation in Columbus, Ga. This article is written as an opinion piece so that the most plain and strong language can be used as frankly as possible so that the public and city council alike may come to understand the issue at hand.
The Columbus city council meeting held on September 27, 2022, was possibly one of the most flagrant displays of willful blindness in the name of economic development that our city has ever seen.
During the public agenda section of the meeting, a representative from a new “tourism” business requested the city alter its laws to allow the business to operate.
The business, called Pedal Pub, provides “tours” on their open-air vehicles for up to seventeen people who consume alcoholic beverages while driving throughout the city streets. The company has an abhorrent track record and reputation for vehicular accidents and alcohol-related legal issues throughout the country.
Though the company likes to refer to their vehicles as “bikes,” make no mistake: the vehicles have four wheels, a steering column, and even have an electric motor. They are legally considered motor vehicles. Passengers can conveniently provide “pedal power” through a bicycle-like drivetrain, though it is not required to power the vehicle.
The discussion amongst council members during the September 27 meeting was — by far — the most telling exhibit of how far the city is willing to go to meet its “tourism” agenda that has ever occurred.
Council members either did not responsibly research the matter at hand, or have chosen to brazenly ignore reality because they simply didn’t like what they found.
Throughout this article, we’ll break down the factors at play and provide the insight that many council members seem to be willfully ignoring in hopes of raising awareness of the ticking time bomb that is “Pedal Pub Columbus.”
In order for Columbus city council to allow Pedal Pub to operate its alcohol-induced vehicular tours, it would have to willfully ignore a plethora of state laws. The council’s willingness to even consider altering its local laws raises serious questions of the integrity of the council and the city government as a whole. Furthermore, the city has made it quite plain that it plans to do so in the name of “tourism,” demonstrating how far it is willing to go to ignore reality in the pursuit of its pipe-dream ambitions of “economic development.”
Open Container Laws
According to Georgia Code Title 40, Chapter 6, Article 11, § 40-6-253 — more commonly referred to as the “open container law” — vehicle occupants are prohibited from even possessing an open alcoholic beverage, let alone consume it openly. While the Pedal Pub vehicles are in fact motorized — which negates the need for the remainder of this argument — council should also remember that Georgians can and do receive DUI charges on bicycles when operated on city streets. Whether the council wants to consider the four-wheeled, bus-sized, electrically-powered Pedal Pub vehicles “bicycles” or not is irrelevant. How the council is capable of reconciling this inconsistency in their heads is astounding.
According to Georgia Code Title 40, Chapter 6, Article 9, § 40-6-184 — more commonly referred to as the “impeding traffic law” — drivers cannot drive at such slow speeds that they prevent others behind them from passing, unless the slow speed is required for safe operation. Given that the vehicles are open-air, bus-sized cars with no retention devices or safety rails, the Pedal Pub vehicles will have to operate at relatively slow speeds when compared to the traditional cars around them. With the Pedal Pub vehicles operating on routes throughout the single-laned, one-way streets of the downtown area, it is inevitable that they will impede traffic by their very nature. On Broadway, for example, they would have to essentially create their own lane on the extreme right-side of the single-lane roadway, brushing their intoxicated passengers right up against the 45-degree parked cars and the occasional (illegally parked) loading trucks. This will, statistically speaking, result in accidents or injury. Allowing it to occur is an act of gross negligence that will inevitably result in lawsuits — and rightfully so; it is reasonably foreseeable and hence grossly negligent. Again, this is a reality that city council and Uptown Columbus, Inc. seem to be willfully ignoring.
Seat Belt Laws
According to Georgia Code Title 40, Chapter 8, Article 1, Part 4, § 40-8-76.1 — more commonly referred to as the “seat belt law” — passengers of every motor vehicle — which includes Pedal Pub’s electrically-powered cars — are required to wear a seatbelt. The Pedal Pub vehicles do not even have a guard rail or other retention device to keep passengers from falling off the contraption, let alone seatbelts. The only exceptions to our state’s seatbelt law are for some farm vehicles, frequently-stopping trucks like mail carriers, and older passenger vehicles. The Pedal Pub vehicles do not meet the criteria of any of these exceptions, and are willfully being allowed to operate in a grossly negligent manner. Again, this is a dangerous reality that city council and Uptown Columbus, Inc. seem to be willfully ignoring.
According to Georgia Code Title 16, Chapter 11, Article 2, § 16-11-41 — more commonly referred to as the “public intoxication law” — all people are prohibited from acting “boisterously” while under the influence of alcohol by being vulgar, profane, or loud. While this writer is appalled that this needs to even be spelled out for city council, this writer will do so anyway. Perhaps it is best to pose it as a question: Does city council honestly not believe that the very nature of the Pedal Pub business model does, on its face, invite the exact conduct this law prohibits? Do they not recognize how the business — and its demonstrable track record — will inevitably result in an increase of acts of public intoxication, whether the city chooses to prosecute them or not? Does the city not recognize that if they choose to ignore these inevitable acts of public intoxication, the public has to deal with the consequences of these lewd drunken antics? Does the city not recognize that acts of public intoxication invite other alcohol-induced offenses to occur as a result? Either the city council is too incompetent to plainly see the answers to these questions, or they are willfully ignoring them in their pipe-dream pursuit of “tourism” at the expense of the town itself.
The laws listed above are not an exhaustive list, though for the sake of brevity this writer will cut it short.
The Dangerous Track-Record
As we published earlier this week in an article examining the recent Pedal Pub rollover accident in Atlanta that left 15 people injured and the driver arrested for DUI , Pedal Pub has a greasy, slippery, and dangerous track record — both from a mechanical vehicle standpoint, and a legal one.
It was astonishing to hear so many council members state that Pedal Pub has such a “safe and proven track record,” when about ten minutes worth of basic googling reveals that to be an enormous falsehood. Council member Walker Garrett (District 8) made a blatant effort to defend the business model, stating that he has never heard of any safety issues regarding Pedal Pub in any of his own anecdotal experience. Perhaps Mr. Garrett ought to whip out his phone, open google, and type “Pedal Pub Crash” into the search engine before he misleads an entire city based on his wrongful and ill-informed anecdotal ignorance. Frankly, Mr. Garret ought to be ashamed of using his privileged position of power to irresponsibly make such a statement to the very constituents he is sworn to represent faithfully. Research isn’t difficult, and Mr. Garrett has a responsibility to perform it when representing a literal city instead of saying things similar to “well I like beer and other cities have it so why not us?” Sarcasm emphasized.
Council member Evelyn “Mimi” Woodson (District 7) took a similar laissez-faire approach, blatantly brushing aside any responsible concern whatsoever with an obvious intent on achieving a predetermined outcome. Again, Ms. Woodson made pandering political statements of “tourism” and how the town is “doing amazing” and moving to the “next level” — but failed to mention or even acknowledge the brazen plethora of local and state laws that must be willfully ignored to do so. This pollyanna approach is a reckless and dangerous one, regardless of what results may emerge from a legitimate discussion on the topic; the conversation must address the conflicts of law without simply brushing them aside and overwriting them — which is exactly what “Mimi” did. It was a shame to see, and again raises serious questions of the integrity and ethical conduct of the council.
The Pedal Pub rollover crash that occurred in Atlanta this past May is but one example of many.
Another occurred in Minneapolis causing the bus-sized vehicle to roll over, resulting from excessive speed while cornering a turn. This also brings up the negligently-poor design of the vehicle which places thousands of pounds roughly six feet off the ground, but we will discuss that in-depth later in this article.
A separate Pedal Pub accident later occurred in the same city of Minneapolis in which the Pedal Pub collided with a car on the city’s 3rd Street Bridge.
A third Pedal Pub crash occurred in Minneapolis on the city’s Hennepin Avenue bridge where the Pedal Pub was struck from behind by a Monte Carlo, sending 12 of the Pedal Pub’s passengers to the hospital.
Just this past June, an off-brand Pedal Pub-like vehicle operating under seemingly identical methods to that of the Pedal Pub company, ran over a patron in Detroit after she fell off the moving vehicle. Had the vehicle been outfitted with a guard rail or — dare we say — seatbelts in accordance with the law, the woman would not have been injured.
A Nashville man was severely injured after falling off of an open-air Pedal Pub car and being run over by a passing car, leading to the city of Nashville almost immediately banning the operation of open-air party vehicles altogether.
The design of the Pedal Pub car allows for up to 17 passengers. These passengers sit in unrestrained chairs with their surfaces roughly four feet off the ground. Assuming each passenger weighs an average of 150 pounds, and assuming that weight centers around a point two feet off the surface of the chair, that places more than 2,500 pounds worth of passengers looping the circumference of the vehicle at a height six feet off the ground, on a tubular-chassis vehicle that a single man or two could lift easily enough with their bare hands.
Furthermore, that 2,500-pound-laden light-framed vehicle is moving at a speed of roughly 15 or 20 mph with all that weight roughly six feet off the ground toward the top of the vehicle. Ask yourself what happens when such a high center-of-gravity meets a little thing called “angular momentum.” This writer will give you a hint: angular momentum will win every time. Seriously, no one considered the load plan or center-of-gravity on a vehicle designed to carry drunken people through city streets at-speed? Seriously? Seems awfully … negligent.
It does not take much common sense to understand why having a dozen or more drunken people hanging onto a moving motorized vehicle with no guard rail nor seatbelts on functional city streets is a fairly stupid, reckless, and grossly negligent idea. The fact that a gaggle of grown adults sat together in a room dedicated to the governing of a city and even remotely considered this to be an acceptable idea is pathetic. Reevaluate your dedication to the public’s service and rediscover your sense of integrity. Shame.
Is the destruction of common sense, state law, and the town itself worth your pipe dream of “economic development” and “tourism”? Precisely how much of your soul are you willing to sell for a dollar?
The council’s answers to these plain questions will determine the course they choose for this city to chart, and the burden of those decisions lay in their hands, and their hands alone — as does their reelection and the frequency of phone calls they will receive when the “Pedal Pub bandwagon” inevitably causes the commotion it has already demonstrated it will.
Facts are stubborn things — and we’ll keep publishing them, whether city officials like them or not.
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