A pedicab rider who charges £50 for a 10-minute ride through the capital has said his price is ‘fair’ given the ‘hard work’ it takes to transport people by bike.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service went undercover to speak to pedicab riders in London’s Leicester Square and spoke to riders about overcharging on the unregulated service after an American tourist was charged £250 for a five-minute ride.

The rider, who has not been identified, said his prices were “fair” and tried charging £50 for an extended ride to Covent Garden from Leicester Square. The same trip on Uber would have cost around £8 at the time. 

Authorities are cracking down on pedicabs after reports of visitors being charged hundreds of pounds for short trips around the capital. Westminster City Council claimed passengers were being charged close to £500 for 10-minute trips across the West End. 

When LDRS went undercover one Friday night in Leicester Square, quotes for a trip to Greek Street in Soho or Covent Garden, both within walking distance, were between £20 and £50.  Using an Uber for these journeys, without detours, costs no more than £8.

The first rider I approached said it was £20 just to set off. That price doubled when a driver in Chinatown wanted me to go for a ride “around the City” when my destination was just a six-minute walk away. A third quoted me £40 to get around Soho and £50 to get dropped off at the Punch and Judy bar afterwards.

However, one rider became agitated when asked for a price list. He said: “Most of the other guys have one but I don’t because I know the work, innit? If you looked at the price list, you’d be running far. The price list is more expensive.”

The rider claimed his pricing was “fair”. Becoming visibly annoyed, he said: “Like I said, you just asked me and I told you £5 a minute. If it’s you, and two more people, I won’t charge them.

“This is a real bike. It doesn’t have a motor in there. So, for me, it’s harder work. I can’t speak for everybody else, my brother.”

The conversation took a turn when a woman interrupted asking for directions. I quizzed the ride on how much that trip would cost and he angrily shot back: “I don’t think you’re here to ride, but you’re here to investigate, and that’s fine. 

“You’re probably speaking to the wrong man, if you want to catch somebody out. [If] you want to catch somebody out, go and try the other riders, because I’m fair.”

When asked who those riders were, he responded: “I don’t know my brother. That’s some police s*** you’re coming up with. You’re probably the police. It doesn’t matter who comes to me, it’s going to be the same.”  

He added: “When people say ripping off, what is ripping off? We’re riding this f***** heavy s***. People should f****** try and ride this themselves and then they will think differently.”

The rider said the minimum he charged customers for a tour around Soho was £50, or £5 a minute.

When asked what pricing structure was in place for pedicabs operating in central London, Westminster City Council said they are ‘still looking into the most suitable approach to the pricing guidelines’. The investigation comes as King Charles announced plans to deal with the ‘scourge of unlicensed pedicabs in London’ during his first King’s Speech to Parliament.

This Is Local London: A photo of pedicabs lined up outside the Hippodrome Casino in Leicester Square on Friday, October 20. Photo taken as part of undercover work on the same day into the nuisance of pedicabs in central London. Credit: Adrian Zorzut. For use for all LDRS

Regulating pedicabs has become a pressing issue for Westminster City Council, which has been campaigning for a change in the law.

Under the Metropolitan Public Carriage Act 1869, pedicabs can operate in London without a licence. 

The council and local MP, Nickie Aiken, want transport laws updated to give Transport for London (TfL) the power to issue licences.

In a letter to the government ahead of the King’s Speech, Westminster City Council leader Adam Hug wrote: “We must have appropriate legislation in place to regulate pedicabs, e-scooters, e-bikes and tackle vehicle idling – to provide safer streets and regulate these growing problems.”

The Labour councillor said pedicabs have “plagued residents and businesses for years”.

He wrote: “It seems clear that we need the Government to bring forward the necessary legislation themselves to deliver this change. It is the least our residents can expect their government to do for them after the disappointment they felt after the last time this was promised but not delivered.”

Ms Aiken is hopeful her Private Member’s Bill regulating pedicabs will be picked up by Rishi Sunak’s team and run through parliament.

She said: “This is a no-brainer. We don’t know how safe the vehicles are. We don’t know if the drivers are fit to take passengers and there is no regulation whatsoever. This is the Wild West of transport and it needs to be regulated and it needs to be regulated urgently.”

A TfL spokesperson said: “Pedicabs are the only form of unregulated public transport in London, and as such impact the safety of the capital’s road network, as well as customers being charged well-documented rip-off fares. 

“As they are unregulated, drivers and vehicles have not undergone any checks, which could potentially mean an increased danger to pedicab customers and other road users. We continue to support the call for new legislation which will allow us to regulate pedicabs in London to improve safety.”

The Government’s Pedicabs (London) Bill announced in the King’s Speech will give TfL the power to issue licences.

The Met was contacted for comment but did not reply by the time of publishing.