Missoula rickshaw driver Jonas Ehudin (who in his day job is the Indy’s calendar editor), recently found himself ensnared by what might be one of the most pointless laws on Missoula’s books.
According to Title 9, Chapter 32 of the Missoula City Code, “The construction, maintenance, operation, moving, carrying or transportation beside, along or upon any street, alley or public highway within the city of any radio, phonograph or other musical instrument, or other sound producing device, while same is producing, or reproducing sound, song, speech or music is declared to be a nuisance and is prohibited…”
Ever heard of car stereos?
Police pinched Ehudin in April after he completed a U-turn on Ryman Street at 1:40 a.m. in front of the Badlander, whence he’d been hailed by a fare. Ehudin, who has been ferrying Missoulians (inebriated or otherwise) in his rickshaw since summer 2003 without any citations, complaints or run-ins with police, was cited for making an illegal U-turn, for operating without
carrying his business license and for transporting a sound device through the city, which in this case was a battery-powered car stereo.
Authorities dropped the business license charge after he appeared in court with said license, but they refused to drop the sound device charge unless he pleads guilty to the U-turn, which Ehudin doesn’t deny (though he says he’s reluctant to make a deal to jettison a sound-device citation he believes he never should have received).
None of the city’s attorneys cared to comment on the sound device ordinance, but the receptionist said it’s “sort of vague, that’s why our office hasn’t done a whole lot of enforcing of it or prosecuting any citations for it.”
A court date for Ehudin’s sound device violation has been set for Oct. 10.
Ehudin met with Police Chief Rusty Wickman in the weeks following the citation, and Wickman granted him a permit to operate the rickshaw radio, though Ehudin’s citation remains. Wickman told the Independent that the sound device ordinance is rarely used, except when police receive repeated complaints. He said, to his knowledge, no one had complained about the rickshaw.
“The people downtown on the weekend love the music. And in combination with the rickshaw’s bright lights and reflective tape, the tunes really enhance the safety of the operation,” says Ehudin. “As they say, ‘Loud pipes save lives.’”