The vast majority of rickshaws working in Cork City are currently under lock and key after 19 vehicles were seized by gardaí last Saturday.
Officers from the Roads Policing Unit in the city’s Anglesea St Station worked alongside officials from Revenue and the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection on Saturday evening in what was the largest swoop on rickshaws outside of the capital.
Many of the vehicles were intercepted before they even reached the city centre on Saturday, with gardaí claiming that Cork City Council was aware of the operation and the gardaí’s view of rickshaws.
Finbarr O’Sullivan, director of traffic inspection in the Roads Policing Unit, said the main focus of the operation was on road safety: “We interviewed people, we stopped a number of people going into the city centre. They were on their way to the city centre to pick up fares. The primary purpose was road safety.”
He said this centred around whether or not the vehicles were roadworthy and whether the people operating them were properly equipped to do so, as well as the times of operation and safety considerations.
Rickshaws do not operate purely on pedal power and also employ an engine, making them a mechanically-propelled vehicle. It is believed between 25 and 30 rickshaws typically operate in Cork City.
The 19 rickshaws were detained under Section 41 of the Road Traffic Act and will remain in garda possession until their owners — who have 10 days in which to do so — produce satisfactory proof of certification and insurance to ensure they can be released.
“We would have a few concerns about them in the city centre,” said Insp O’Sullivan, who added that the level of lighting used in some cases might be insufficient to alert pedestrians and other road users that they are in the area.
He also said gardaí “don’t know” whether the rickshaws are typically one-person operations or whether a number of vehicles might be operated by a small number of people.
Regarding the local authority he said: “The City [Council] can impose regulations and bylaws and that would probably be the way to deal with this. They would be aware of the situation and of some of our concerns. This is probably our first foray into this. We would look to see what would come out of this operation.”
A spokesperson for the Revenue Commissioners confirmed that it was also involved in Saturday night’s operation and said it was to check on tax compliance issues, with the DEASP (Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection) also playing a role.
There have been doubts about the level of regulation relating to rickshaws in recent years, and last summer the National Transport Authority launched a public consultation the issue.
It followed concerns outlined by Dublin City Council that some of the 500 rickshaw operators in the capital do not have public liability insurance. A meeting of the NTA’s board last October heard a large number of responses had been received and “the vast majority of respondents supported the banning or regulation of rickshaws”.
There have also been reports of rickshaw drivers in Dublin being involved in the transport of drugs, while in 2013 Galway City Council voted to ban rickshaws.
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