It’s been several months since I posted a Cyclist of the Month interview – that one with Jason Potter was pretty awesome – and I’ve been meaning to sit down with (read: email) the guys at Memphis Pedicab Company for some questions. Well, after months of procrastination on my part, plus a ridiculously busy schedule, here we are. Read on to learn about the history of Memphis’s only people-powered transportation team, how to recover from a night of hauling around passengers, and what it’s like to pedal a cab.
Co-owner Chris Copeland taking some people for a spin.
1. Tell me about the history of Memphis Pedicab. How did this new business get started?
Jeremy Reese and I started the company after finding ourselves unemployed in early 2011. It was a sudden and unexpected change after dedicating so much time, energy and emotion to someone else’s idea. Not long after spending all day every day looking for a job and realizing, first-hand, how difficult the current job market is to navigate, we decided that we needed something to do with our time and abilities. We did some research and found that Pedicabs were becoming more and more popular across the US. We were intrigued at the possibility and set about finding a used Pedicab to purchase to fuel the fire and proove the concept to ourselves.
Once we found one and drove it back to Memphis, in the back of a rented pick-up, we were convinced. We then put together a business plan, a proforma and secured a business license. Next came our biggest and most rewarding hurdle to clear…We had to submit a proposal to the City and appear before a panel to present our idea and business plan. On the panel were representatives from the Memphis City Gov’t including the Permit Office, the City Attorney’s office, the MATA, the Taxi industry, the Visitors Bureau and Convention Center and the MPD. We really could not have succeeded without the support of the following people: Aubrey Howard at the Permit Office, Kyle Wagenshutz, the Mayor’s Bike and Pedestrian Coordinator, Mayor AC Wharton himself, Leslie Gower and Paul Morris of the Downtown Commission and Maria Fuhrmann from Kemp Conrad’s office.
2. Since you’ve been open, what’s happened to your level of business? Do you plan to add more employees any time soon?
Since starting at the end of last Summer business has most certainly picked up. We don’t have to solicit rides as much as we did initially. People are definitely starting to catch on as they realize how convenient and fun the pedicabs are. We are always looking for a few good men AND women to pedal. It’s a great way to stay in shape while earning a little cash.
3. You must have some really interesting stories from transporting people around downtown in a pedicab. What’s been your most interesting/bizarre clients?
Have you ever seen Taxi Cab confessions on HBO…??? People really will tell you almost anything while you drive them around.
4. What’s it like driving a pedicab? Those things must be geared in a way to let you handle some serious cargo (i.e. people). And I imagine they have some serious brakes on them too. What’s the weight limit for a pedicab?
Driving a pedicab is tons of fun! Most of the time you are transporting people who are already out to have a good time and you get to be part of it…you get to actually be part of the environment. You’re always meeting someone new and you get to contribute to their experience. The cabs are geared just like a 21speed mountain bike and even though they have a pretty big granny gear a five or six hour shift definitely takes it out of you. Downtown is not as flat as you think it is, especially when carting a few hundred pounds around. The max load is about 800 lbs and they are equipped with hydraulic rear brakes. Usually as the nights progress we inch closer and closer to that max 800 pound limit as people pile on in fours and fives!
5. You must be pretty exhausted after a full day/night of pedaling people around Memphis. What’s your favorite energy booster?
Sugar, sugar and more sugar followed by carbs and more sugar.
6. What other neighborhoods do you think would be well-suited for a pedicab? I could see one making the rounds on Madison Avenue, between Cooper and McLean, especially once Overton Square is renovated.
We ask ourselves that question all the time. We keep coming back to the Cooper-Young/Overton Square area. We really like the feeling and activity in that part of town. Hopefully the Square will make a comeback…it has such great potential. Pedicabs would be perfect for the trip from Cooper Young to Overton Square. That part of town would also be ideal for a dispatch-type of pedicab servivce.
7. What’s been the response to your business among downtown locals and businesses? Do the horse-drawn carriages ever try to race you?
Sometimes it can be a slow process trying to start something new or break into an industry that has established players. You certainly can’t escape the “new-kid-on-the-block” feeling. Before we had all the required paperwork and been properly vetted the response was not what we had hoped but certainly expected. We are finding our place in the higherarchy, we are starting to be accepted as part of the downtown scene and we couldn’t be happier. And yes, the carriages regularly ask us if we want to race.
8. When the Harahan Bridge project is completed, we’ll have bike lanes crossing the Mississippi River. Any plans to transport people across the river to West Memphis and back?
That is certainly in the cards.
9. What other types of biking do you do around town?
I also race as a Cat 3 cyclist.
10. Any other stories you’d like to share?
We are perfect for parties, weddings, corporate events, brand ambassadors or even as a valet service.
And there you have it, folks. I’ve been meaning to head downtown and take a ride on a pedicab myself. Have you done so? Leave me some love in the comments section, and say hello to Chris, Jeremy, and the rest of the Memphis Pedicab people the next time you’re downtown.