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In NYC, we patiently wait for the bill to ban horse-drawn carriages – Intro 573 – to be considered and voted on by the City Council. That cannot happen until the required Environmental Impact Study (EIS) is completed. So we continue to bide our time and wait. We do not know what the EIS will reveal or what it studied. We do know, however, that there are many obvious reasons why this trade should be shut down. The unsafe character of the business is just one.

Horse-drawn carriages used in the commercial hack line trade – such as New York City – are insubstantial at best – and an accident waiting to happen. They are made from a combination of wood, fiberglass, and metal. They are flimsy. They should not be on the road with cars, trucks, buses, taxis, ambulances, fire trucks, police cars, bicycles, motorcycles, and pedestrians. Yet they are. They are even allowed to work in highly congested Times Square.

Do not think the problem will be solved if the drivers only work in the park. Central Park is wall-to-wall people — walking, jogging, cycling, skating, plus pedicabs, drummers and street performers. It is not “Sunday in the park with George” – nor is it an idyllic Georges Seurat painting. It is Times Square without the cars.

The classic carriage weighs about 1,000 lbs, it is open, it does not have seat belts. In comparison, an average automobile weighs about 4,000 pounds; an average city bus weighs 36,000 fully loaded; a city fire truck loaded with water and equipment can weight about 56,000 pounds.

So WHY are these dangerous contraptions still allowed on city streets? The carriages are made for looks — not for safety.

The Issue of Seat Belts

A word about seat belts from Las Vegas:

“First it [Las Vegas City Council] allowed the rides, but only if carriages had seat belts and the horses had been acclimated to traffic noise. Later, those requirements were dropped. The argument against seat belts was that insurance companies didn’t like them as they made the rides more dangerous — if a horse got spooked, the passengers wouldn’t be able to quickly jump out.”

Do they not even understand what they are saying – which is – horse-drawn carriages are so dangerous that the insurance companies will not provide insurance if there are seat belts because it is “MORE DANGEROUS” and the likelihood that a horse will spook is always there and passengers will need to be able to jump out quickly.

Pictures speak a thousand words. Here are a few.

NYC, 2006. Spotty spooks and crashes into a car. One dead horse, 3 injured people.


NYC, 2007. Taxi hits carriage; horse injured.


Wedding in Brooklyn 2008. Horses spook, wedding ruined. 

horse 3

NYC, 2009. Taxi hits carriage.


What do Insurance Companies Say About Horse-Drawn Carriages?

This company, Sadler Sports, insures horse-drawn carriage businesses and actually suggests that owners get a signed waiver:

“Even with the closest attention and care to carriages, riders, horses and traffic, unforeseen accidents and resulting lawsuits do occur.  Horses can bolt from a variety of causes: loud traffic noises, firecrackers, speeding cars, cigarettes flung from a passing vehicle — even accidental instructions to the horse can cause an accident. Passengers can be thrown, pedestrians can be trampled or kicked, a harness might break enabling a horse to run free, or a runaway horse can cause other traffic accidents to occur. Injuries such as these may occur, but the chances can be dramatically reduced with sound risk management practices in place and General Liability policies for coverage in the event of such an accident.

Having a signed waiver/release form for all clients should be mandatory. Parents or legal guardians should sign a waiver for minor riders (in addition to the minor’s signature). These waivers are extremely important for the business owner because the waiver offers some protection from the amount of damages in the event of a lawsuit. The best protection for you and your carriage business is to have both Accident and General Liability insurance with sufficient limits.”

This is not done in NYC.

NYC requires this minimal level of personal and property liability insurance for horse-drawn cabs:

  • $25,000 for bodily injury of any one person resulting from any one accident
  • $50,000 for bodily injury of two or more persons resulting from any one accident
  • $50,000 for death of any one person resulting from any one accident
  • $100,000 for death of two or more persons resulting from any one accident
  • $10,000 for destruction of property resulting from any one accident

At the same time, the City of NY requires this insurance for pedicabs.  Why is there such a big difference?

  • $100,000 for personal injury or death of any one person resulting from any one accident
  • $300,000 for personal injury or death of two or more persons resulting from any one accident, with a $100,000 maximum coverage per person
  • $50,000 for property damage

What Can You Do?

While New York City is in the process (be it slow as it is) of considering action to phase out horse-drawn carriages, there are many other cities that have yet to recognize the danger of these tourist traps. New Yorkers and everyone else can call the NYC Transportation Committee members and ask them to vote in favor of Intro 573. We can all play a part to help end to this antiquated practice by refusing to ride and spreading awareness for the potential damage these carriages can cause.

Lead image source: Elvert Barnes/Flickr

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0 comments on “Are Horse-Drawn Carriages Rides Safe for the Public?”

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Herbert Andler
3 Years Ago

we all need to ban together and help get rid of all the American jobs we have left

Elizabeth Forel -Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages
3 Years Ago

Cars, taxis, buses and trucks are the ways in which people get from here to there - whether business or pleasure. It is a major and necessary part of any city. Regardless of what you may hear from those who support the carriage trade, the horse-drawn carriage does not even have a seat at the table and it is absurd to think they are comparable. It is entertainment. It is frivolous and only exacerbates an already crowded situation on the street. It needs to be shut down. Manhattan needs to stop being an amusement park for the carriage horse trade.

Heidi H Christensen
18 Jul 2017

People don\'t give a damn if a horse gets injured! They want what they want and too bad for anything that gets in their way!~

Wild Side
3 Years Ago

Two innocent pedestrians were killed in Central Park by bicyclists in the last year alone. Why is not Ms. Forel demanding that all bicyclists carry mandatory insurance? Why isn\'t she demanding that pedestrians sign release forms before walking in CP in case they\'re run over by a bicycle? If they\'re going to run into people, shouldn\'t bicyclists wear seatbelts? Recently a pedicab with an illegal motor started a three alarm fire in a parking garage. Yet no pedicabs have received any citations for any reason this entire year. I think Ms. Forel is looking in the wrong place to cast aspersions if she is actually concerned with safety in Central Park. The carriage horses are literally THE SAFEST form of transportation in the city.

3 Years Ago

An accident waiting to happen? Really? Want to know what else could be an accident waiting to happen? How about a vehicle whose brakes fail and it careens into a crowd of people on a sidewalk, the pedi cab driver weaving in and out of traffic ignoring lanes, the taxi cab driver too busy talking or is on their cell phone to notice people in the crosswalk or stopped traffic, or how about a pedestrian who may fall while crossing the street,(or is having a medical emergency)? Lots of accidents waiting to happen there. The carriages are ‘flimsy’? Have you taken a good look at a pedi cab lately? Part bicycle part carriage. What if…. It broke in half, got hit by a car or the tire blew out while it was weaving in and out of traffic ? The carriage are a lot sturdier than you think. Yeah they may look rough after an accident, but so do cars and let’s face it, a bicycle offers no contest in an accident. The insurance companies did not say that carriages were more dangerous, nice way to put your own personal spin on something, they said that IF a horse spooked, that passengers may not be able to get out, they did not say WHEN. The pictures you show are OLD, because there are no new(er) ones to blast in your article. Maybe that’s because the drivers learned from mistakes, not unlike vehicle drivers? As far as the spooking horse issue, you do know that there is a big difference in a draft breed nature than a thoroughbreds nature…for example. Draft and draft crosses were bred for pulling and their gentle nature. There are noises every day in the city, yet , horses are not ‘spooking’ every day. In fact, there was an incident of an anti -carriage protest group waving signs, arms, screaming and getting in the faces of the driver, tourists even screaming at children telling them they are abusers and yes, they are even waving their posters and arms at the horse and it didn’t spook at all. Maybe carriages don’t have as much insurance as the pedi cabs because they are safer. I would rather have a calm relaxing ride in a carriage that in a taxi or a pedi-cab anyday. I’d rather listen to the clip clop and see a horses butt over a weaving pedi cab ride looking at some guys butt crack. Your article is preying on people emotions and fears and if we all listen to your type of fear mongering of ‘it’s an accident waiting to happen’, we might as well also believe that nyc is a cesspool of people waiting to to do bodily harm and steal from others, after all… we could consider that a ‘crime waiting to happen’. This anti- carriage issue started because the mayor owes favors to his cronies who want people the stables for their own use…condos, parking garage, etc. anti=carriage people are trying to convince that the owners/drivers are going to send the horses off to slaughter, further preying on people’s emotions to be against the cruel, abusive drivers. Like I tell others..’’ get educated and talk to the experts, not the people looking to make the carriage industry extinct.

3 Years Ago

The reason the insurance is so much higher for pedicaps is because it is unregulated. not like the NYC Carriage Horses which are highly regulated and controlled. That is why this ad filled blog (which is completely annoying) can only list accidents that are old. decades old. The industry is well regulated and safe. Just curious.. the money this blog gets from all these annoying ads and pop ups... how much of it is used to hel animals??? in particular the hundreds of thousand of horses sent to auction and slaughter every year right here in America??? (betcha none!!!)

3 Years Ago

Going back decades for a few carriage horse incidents is proving the industry is well-regulated and safe. It makes sense to have less insurance for a carriage than for pedicabs because pedicabs offer far less protection.

04 Jun 2015

I agree - very old pictures that prove nothing

3 Years Ago

Not safe for the public and certainly not safe for the horses. Let the people walk, ride bikes or take a taxi.

04 Jun 2015

have you seen the statistics on accidents involving taxis, vehicles, bicycles, pedicabs, pedestrians and the carriage horses? the carriage horses are at the bottom with the least amount of incidents/accidents. of course, the anti-carriage people will tell you that\'s because they don\'t report them, but if someone wants to sue or gets taken to a hospital...it gets reported. they\'ll tell you anything and besides, i would never listen to someone who interviews herself and pays to have it published. nice to know donations are being used for self promotion instead of helping animals that truly need help.

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