Make room on the road for pedicabs

I sense yet another rising trend thanks to the rising price of gas: pedicabs.

You probably know what I'm talking about, even if you don't know the word -- if you've seen someone pedaling on a bicycle-like vehicle, pulling a few people behind him -- you've likely seen a pedicab.

Half bicycle, half taxicab, these things have been popular around the world for decades (and its man-powered predecessor, the rickshaw, for centuries before that) but I'm seeing more articles in the newspaper about them, and a friend of mine recently sent me the link of a friend of his, who just started a pedicab business in Chicago.
You can easily find them in other cities like New York, San Diego, Minneapolis and many other cities, and some smaller communities that are dependent on tourists have them--i.e., Newburyport, Massachussetts, where the transportation is free (the drivers work for tips). With rising gas prices, it seems like they're going to keep getting more popular, particular in warm temperate communities.

Like, Miami, for instance. Go Green Pedicab recently opened up. According to a Miami New Times bike blog, taxi cab drivers -- at least in Miami -- like the service and welcome it because pedicabs are utilized for short distances and not far. Taxis aren't really meant for a two or three block jaunt, but the pedicabs are perfect for that.

And an entrepreneur in Bloomington, Indiana, where Indiana University is located, has been trying to get his pedicab concept, Fresh Air Taxis, off the ground, but the entrepreneur has been running into some problems -- as many pedicab companies are around the country -- with the legal codes of various communities. After all, we're talking vehicles on the road that are typically chugging along at less than 20 miles an hour, sharing space with cars. And so that's understandable.

But it won't be understandable if communities can't figure out a way for pedicabs and cars to peacefully co-exist. After all, pedicabs are environmentally-friendly -- they don't use up any gas, and the only possible noxious fumes are from the driver's sweat glands. What's more, they're often free, since drivers usually ask for tips and entrepreneurs behind the enterprise use advertising on their vehicles to bring in revenue. Granted, if you're tipping a driver, that's not free. On the other hand, it is a service -- if you're bleeding and need a ride to the hospital, or today you happen to be broke and have no money on you, or if you're old and frail, hop on a pedicab, get a free ride wherever you want within their routes, don't tip and don't give it a second thought.

You know, maybe more pedicabs on the streets isn't a rising trend -- but I want it to be.

Geoff Williams is a freelance journalist and the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale).

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