“Once around the park, please!”
A phrase that has been repeated in everything from classic films to blogs might be on its way out. Alderman Edward Burke of Chicago’s 14th Ward wants to stop renewing licenses for the 25 horse-drawn carriages in the city. He considers the carriages unsafe, unsanitary, and cruel to the horses.
“Carriage rides have outlived their usefulness in Chicago. I would argue it is an unsafe and obsolete tradition that our city should simply ban,” Burke said in a press release.
Burke appears to have the support of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who joked, “Hurry up and get your last ride in,” at a City Council Meeting.
Last year, horse-drawn operations were limited to being able to work only when the temperature was above 15 degrees and below 90 outside to ensure the animals’ well-being. A few months later, Emanuel encouraged City Council to make it even more difficult for horse-drawn carriages to operate. He spurred a movement to raise licensing fees and require operators to go through the same processes as cab drivers, including city geographical tests.
“I consider that part of the modernization of our transportation system,” Emanuel also kidded. More seriously, he added, “It’s a step forward and the right thing. Obviously, we’ll have a debate and a discussion. But [it has] my general support.”
Horse-and-carriage business owners feel blindsided by the proposal and feel that it attacks their livelihood.
“To have this happen completely has blindsided all of us,” said owner of Great Lakes Horse & Carriage Jim Rogers. “We are circling our wagons.
“I believe that we do give the city a lot of character,” Rogers’ wife Valerie said. “This is our life. This is who we are, and our horses depend on us, and we depend on them.”
Many worry not only that their own businesses will fall apart, but that Chicago will lose some of the unique charms that help bring in tourists and make people want to live in the city. Larry Ortega, who owns Chicago Horse & Carriage, said, “You see all of these restaurants like Cheesecake Factory and Gibsons. They’re all in the suburbs. What we have in Chicago is the charm, but we also have the carriages and the tours we offer.”
Nearly 4.6 million people who live in the United States own horses. For many, especially those who live in big cities, taking a ride on a carriage might be the only way to view and enjoy them. Unfortunately, the ability to do that might become a thing of the past in the near future.