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Drinking on pedal trolleys could end in Ann Arbor

Courtesy of High Five Pedal Tours
One of the High Five Pedal Tours trolleys. Patrons sit on the side and pedal while a "driver" steers and operates the brakes.

Drinking and trolleying could end in Ann Arbor – at least doing it all at once. 

Ann Arbor City Council voted unanimously Monday on the first reading of an ordinance that would regulate pedal trolleys in the city. Among other things, the ordinance would ban drinking while riding on the street. 

This is only the first round for the ordinance – the second reading is scheduled for June 2. 

Governor Snyder approved a state law for drinking on pedal trolleys last summer, but the law allows local governments to make their own regulations. 

Typically, these trolleys hold around a dozen people, who each power the vehicle with their own set of pedals while a "driver" steers and handles the brakes. 

Councilmember Jane Lumm, I-Ward 2, said this ordinance is nothing more than getting Ann Arbor up to speed with other cities that have "pedal pubs." 

"It all has to do with safety," she said, "to ensure that these are operated safely and that the passengers are enjoying a safe ride on these trolleys."

Among the proposed regulations are safety requirements for the trolleys, liability insurance mandates, and a speed limit of 25 miles per hour. 

"Is this really that big of an issue for Ann Arbor?" said council member Chip Smith, D-Ward 5. "I'm not convinced that it is." 

Smith said safety, as well as making sure things like traffic backups are prevented, are important, but ultimately this issue shouldn't take much of the council's attention. 

Steven Christian runs Trolley Pub Ann Arbor. The appeal of his business is getting to drink outside, getting the overall experience, he said. 

Christian said while he supports the safety regulations in the ordinance, he thinks his business would be hurt if it passes.

"A lot of people, their attitude is what's the point of doing it if you can't drink on it 'cause we can just go bar hopping by ourselves," he said.

But for Dave Cicotte, who owns High Five Pedal Tours in Ann Arbor, the ordinance likely wouldn't hurt him much.. He said  he's already looked into making changes the ordinance would require as worded now.

High Five doesn't allow drinking on their bikes for branding reasons; Cicotte doesn't want to just be known as a "party bus" company.

Even still, Cicotte said not drinking on the trolley isn't that big of a deal since Ann Arbor isn't that big. It doesn't take very long to get to each stop, even if you are going bar-to-bar.

"The stops in between are no longer than, I want to say, five to eight minutes," he said. "They have about 20 to 25 minutes at each stop. So, if you think about it, that's one, maybe two drinks, if it is a drinking tour, at each stop." 

Cicotte said he instead provides water on the trolley -- which might be more helpful. 

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