- By Guy Lynn & Jess Warren
- BBC News
A Belgian tourist was charged more than £450 for a seven-minute pedicab ride through central London and says that when she complained she felt threatened by the driver.
April Argenau was charged the sum after a 1.3-mile (2km) trip from Oxford Street to the Royal Lancaster hotel.
“I am shocked the guy got away with this,” she said.
The Licensed Taxi Drivers Association and Met Police say they receive regular reports of tourists being scammed.
Ms Argenau was with her two children when they made the journey. “I felt so threatened, and my kids felt scared,” she said.
“The ride took seven minutes and then we arrived at the hotel, where he got out some device and pressed a button.
“The device first said £330. He then pressed a button, and the screen turned into £464. I said, ‘Are you kidding me? That’s ridiculous. In my currency, that’s over €530’.”
Ms Argenau said the driver refused to back down and was intimidating towards her, demanding immediate payment.
After she paid, she said he disappeared, purposely avoiding the hotel’s CCTV cameras.
Laws covering pedicabs have not been updated since 1869 and the bikes are treated as stage carriages, meaning anyone can buy a pedicab and begin charging people fees.
Licensed Taxi Drivers Association chair Steve Mcnamara said the organisation received daily reports of people being scammed, and the incident was one of the worst he had heard of for the length of trip.
“It’s a national disgrace,” he said. “Tourists being ripped-off is an ongoing problem.
“The need for stringent regulations to protect vulnerable tourists and maintain the integrity of London’s transportation industry has never been more apparent.”
Last year in London’s West End a tourist was charged £300 for a mile-long (1.6km) trip from Selfridges to Green Park station.
Another was charged £180 for a three-minute journey, even though an £18 fare had already been agreed. The Met Police and council ordered the driver to hand the money back.
‘Stain on West End’
To address the growing concern, courts have issued fines amounting to £29,987 to pedicab drivers in Westminster for excessive fares and noise pollution since November 2021.
The fines have ranged from £106 to £1,850, Westminster City Council said.
Aicha Less, deputy leader at the council, said: “Pedicabs operating in Westminster are a stain on our renowned night-time economy and West End.
She says city inspectors “do their best” to educate visitors of the dangers and support businesses to prevent pedicabs “ruining their livelihoods”, but that without government legislation, “operators will always find new ways to push the boundaries”.
Monthly patrols by Westminster City Council and the police have been introduced in popular areas including Oxford Street, Covent Garden, Soho, and the West End.
The Met Police said the force regularly received complaints about the “poor behaviour” of some pedicab riders.
It urged tourists to “check carefully” and find another way to get to their destination if in doubt.
“We have used and will continue to use our Community Protection Notices where applicable.”
Pedicab drivers had been due to be included in the government’s Transport Bill but it was dropped in the last Parliamentary session and remains delayed.