Great Moments in Government Regulation: How City Regulations Killed a Dream in Chattanooga
When longtime Chattanooga-area resident Christian “Thor” Thoreson and his partner Christina Holmes decided to launch Buzz Chattanooga Pedicabs in February 2011, the business seemed tailor-made for the downtown area.Thoreson’s pedicabs, which are pedal-driven tricycles with a two-person passenger compartment attached behind the driver, fill an important need for downtown. By offering a cheap and convenient way for people to get around between hotels, tourist attractions, bars and restaurants, Buzz Chattanooga is a boon for tourist and a convenient addition for locals.The pedicabs prevent drunk driving, free up precious parking spaces and also cut down on auto emissions. The service is inexpensive — it costs passengers only the amount they wish to tip their driver — and it provides well-paying jobs for Buzz Chattanooga drivers. Thoreson estimates his drivers make more than $20 an hour. Revenues from selling ads on the pedicab and a small cut of driver tips fund the business.The pedicabs seem like a win for everyone. But apparently, city officials don’t see it that way.After dealing with the frustrating regulations placed on his business, the unwillingness of city leaders to allow him to serve customers on both sides of the river (pedicabs are banned from using the bridges that span the Tennessee River in downtown Chattanooga, including a pedestrian bridge) and difficulties in selling ads on the pedicabs, Thoreson decided yesterday to throw in the towel and close Buzz Chattanooga.When asked what he’d tell another entrepreneur considering starting a business in Chattanooga, Thoreson replied, “Stay the hell away.”Thoreson’s story is the hidden side of regulations that the city council and other bureaucrats rarely consider in their absurd exercises in trying to keep people safe and micromanage businesses. Too often, regulations stifle entrepreneurs’ ability to innovate, and prevent them from improving their businesses, serving more customers and, ultimately, making Chattanooga a better place.