Half a dozen pedicab drivers stationed themselves next to the monument to Christopher Columbus, defying the veto of the Barcelona City Council, at the end of the Rambla, waiting for customers, at nightfall… “And what the hell do they want us to do? ? –one of them regrets, very angry, leaving a string of outbursts and swear words–, we haven’t worked for two months now. We have families and rentals too! Do they want to kill us? What do we die? We have no alternative! Everyone has to earn a living, right?
The picture next to the Columbus monument suddenly seems peculiar, very strange, typical of other times. Because since the end of June there was no way to find a damn pedicab in Barcelona. Then the first deputy mayor, the socialist Jaume Collboni, announced that the Urban Guard would confiscate all the pedicabs they would find on the streets, that the City Council would draw up new decrees to demand their circulation even more, that it would ask the Generalitat to veto their commercial exploitation. by virtue of its competences in terms of passenger transport… In a few weeks, the Urban Police seized fifty of these vehicles. And in principle the pedicab drivers get the message. “Barcelona is not Bombay,” said the first deputy mayor. This type of vehicle does nothing else that generates coexistence problems, and they are incompatible with the quality tourism model that this city represents”.
“The City Council has to understand that it cannot leave hundreds of people without work from one day to the next, suddenly, without talking about it,” says another driver stationed next to the Columbus monument, calmer than his companion, moderating his outbursts, trying to be constructive, looking over his shoulder every few minutes, just in case. The City Council should have warned us, proposed an alternative, proposed an extension… anything!, but he didn’t even want to sit down with us. The City Council is forcing us to do all this, we have no other choice…”.
The City Council’s offensive made these vehicles disappear for about two months
So dozens of pedicab drivers rebelled, decided to return to the Consistory, returned to the streets, crossed their fingers. And the very intense campaign of Mayor Colau’s government designed to put an end to this highly controversial business is already presenting its first leaks, it is beginning to falter. Perhaps the intended banishment of this irregular economic activity is not going to be as simple as the Consistory had planned. Suddenly this municipal campaign no longer seems so definitive. The increase in police pressure has always been intended mainly to pave the way to provide forceful legal tools, give the Generalitat time to modify the taxi law with the aim of prohibiting any passenger transport in this type of vehicle throughout Catalonia. In principle, the new regulations are to come into force at the beginning of next year.
“The police officers? -replies a third pedicab driver also stationed next to the monument to Columbus-. The cops have much more important things to do than take care of us, don’t you see? -Apostille pointing to a Mossos d’Esquadra car parked a few meters away-. The city is full of drunks and pickpockets. Barcelona has many problems. The police are very busy. Man, I do see them, especially the municipal ones, I get out of the way, surreptitiously, because if the municipal ones see you they take away the pedicab, they’ve taken a lot!, and they don’t return them like before, no… But the cops are no longer running out to catch you, they have much more important things to do, you have to get right under their nose! So we take a risk, total, we can’t do anything else…”.
In any case, the panorama these days is still very different from that of just a couple of months ago. Before the great municipal offensive began, hundreds of pedicab drivers established in Barcelona were totally unleashed, circulating wherever they wanted, with loudspeakers vibrating, at full speed, everywhere, at all hours, so many residents of the Barceloneta and Gòtic were so fed up with them! Because years ago the sector was completely out of control, that all the rules aimed at regulating it became a dead letter, that everyone did what they wanted. For years, secrecy prevails. Payments in black, tricked-out vehicles, job insecurity…
Wayward drivers are mainly stationed between the Columbus monument and Barceloneta
“Let’s see, we don’t do anything wrong –continue the pedicab drivers stationed next to the Columbus monument–, we just wait for the tourists to finish their dinner in the restaurants, don’t you see that there aren’t enough real taxis in the city? We are a help to the city. It is true that many colleagues do not know how to behave, that they do not circulate carefully, but that is not our fault, is it? Stop them.” So these days the pedicab drivers are much more demure than usual, much more discreet and restrained than the times when they roamed freely with impunity. In order not to attract attention, they left the speakers at home, and most of them do not take their first pedals until late at night. Also, it slowed down. And as the floods of tourists descending the Rambla subside, the pedicab drivers pedal along Paseo Colom, towards Barceloneta. Some limit themselves for a while and offer their services to foreigners. They are also concentrated at the end of the promenade, next to the unique colored sculpture, very close to the restaurants located in the Museu d’Història de Catalunya, and also in front of the Porxos d’en Xifré, next to the many terraces in the area, waiting for tourists. “No, people here never want to go up.”