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Restrict Horse-Drawn Carriages To Parks?

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Horse Carriage

(Credit: Chicago Carriage)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – A day after a new rule about cleaning up horse urine dominated the headlines, a new report says Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) would rather just have horse-drawn carriages in parks.

As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Bob Conway reports, the Chicago Sun-Times’ Fran Spielman reported Friday morning that the city should consider banning horse-drawn carriages from Michigan Avenue and other major city streets, and restricting them to parts of Lincoln and Grant parks.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Bob Conway reports

Reilly told the newspaper he believes the carriages do provide a tourism benefit, but are also responsible for downtown traffic jams.

This comes a day after a new rule went into effect that requires city operators to stop and wash the street when their horses urinate on the pavement.

The new rule came after Reilly received repeated complaints about the lingering odor of horse urine in the quiet, affluent residential districts of the Gold Coast.

The rule requires horse urine to be “diluted with a deodorizing, non-toxic liquid” right away, the Sun-Times reported.

Carriage operators said Thursday that the new rule could cause numerous problems.

“It’s unsafe and unrealistic,” said Dan Sampson, owner and president of The Noble Horse, which runs carriages on North Michigan Avenue, in a Thursday interview with WBBM Newsradio 780.

“They are requiring the carriage drivers to stop their horse, after the horse urinates and either lean over or get off the carriage, and pour some material on the urine spot,” he said. “Carriage drivers are forbidden to get off the carriage by insurance reasons while there are passengers.”

The horses usually stop to urinate, and that could cause traffic jams, Sampson said.

Debbie Hay of Antique Coach and Carriage says the new policy could also make for a dangerous situation. The horses know to go on a green light, and the absence of the carriage driver wouldn’t necessarily stop them, she said.

“You may have passengers in your vehicle and your horse may see the green light turn green,” she said. “You’ve got to hold on to your horse and do this at the same time to make it safe.”

Meanwhile, some people on the street Thursday afternoon wondered why horse urine was such a big deal.

“It’s pee, it’s not poo, you know,” a woman said on Michigan Avenue. “I think that’s kind of silly, honestly.”

As it is, horses are required to wear diapers, as a result of a long and ultimately successful crusade by Reilly’s successor, former Ald. Burton Natarus. But the diapers only collect feces; the horses still urinate directly onto the pavement.

Under current regulations, horse-drawn carriages are not allowed on the streets at all during the morning and afternoon rush, from 7 to 9:30 p.m. and 4 to 6 p.m. They are also banned from the Magnificent Mile during 9:30 a.m. and 7 p.m., and from the nightclub district along Rush, State and Division streets between p.m. 6 and 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday, among other restrictions.

In New York City, the other major U.S. city known for horse carriages, operation is not permitted outside of Central Park until after 9 p.m. There have also been several pushes there to ban horse-drawn carriages altogether, particularly after a high-profile accident in 2006 that left a horse so seriously injured he had to be euthanized.

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