February 24, 2024

Times Square, on its best days, is a hive of controlled chaos, where tourists, cabbies, actors, Elmos, and the Naked Cowboy coexist. A new element can upset the ecosystem: the proliferation of music-blaring pedicabs, which lately have turned from a rare treat to a swarm – some say a scourge. “I’ve seen pedicabs in the city for over twenty years,” said Tom Harris, the president of the Times Square Alliance. He was near the TKTS booth amid the holiday throngs: “Recently, the behavior has pushed it to a point where it’s not an amenity—it’s a detraction from the quality of life.”

Harris has overseen a growing turf war between the bicycle-drawn carriages and the Broadway community. “They congregate around theatres at the end of theatre times. They almost block up the entire street.” He pointed out that only a small number of pedicabs are licensed. Two days earlier, the N.Y.P.D. had seized seventy-seven illegal pedicabs in midtown.

Curbside skirmishes are common. Last spring, the proprietors of Glass House Tavern, on Forty-seventh Street, complained on Instagram about the horde of pedicabs causing “dangerous situations for pedestrians” and being “verbally abusive to our staff” as the drivers waited for the musical “Six” to let out next door. Noise is a big issue. Police raided the pedicabs two weeks after the city councilman sent a letter to three city agencies reporting an “uptick in complaints,” in part because of amplified music that is “frequently audible during performances,” he wrote. Harris helped arrange barricades outside the Belasco, pushing the pedicabs across the street.

It’s not easy for all pedicab drivers. One, named Mustafa, said he was getting out of the pedicab game. He’d already sold two of his three bikes. “I don’t like this job,” he said. “It’s too much hustle…”