Tagged: downtown

August Cyclists of the Month: Memphis Pedicab Company

Hi everyone.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Yesterday’s ride

Hi everyone.  Before I get into yesterday’s ride, I’d to mention/remind you all that Biking in Memphis is on twitter.  You can follow me on @bikinginmemphis.  And I’ve started using my twitter iPhone app more lately, so there will be tasty tweets for you to read.  My feed is already connected to my Facebook page.

Anyway, yesterday I had to go downtown for an important dinner with the Shelby County legislative delegation.  The twenty-plus members of the state House and Senate from Shelby County have been very supportive of the Center for Economic Education at the University of Memphis, and since I am going to be taking over as Director of said Center, it was incumbent that I meet the delegation.

I debated whether or not to bike downtown.  The dinner started at 4:00 PM, so traffic wasn’t an issue, but I needed to wear my suit and look sharp, and I was concerned about being rumpled, given that I wouldn’t be able to change clothes once I arrived.  Plus, I wanted to be sure I had plenty of time to get there, and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to leave on time.  And, I haven’t biked in several weeks, and given that I blew out my knee last year under similar circumstances, I did not want to risk another injury.  But eventually I sucked it up, geared up, and headed out around 2:50 PM, in plenty of time to bike downtown.

I arrived at the Majestic Grille, the site of the dinner, around 3:20 PM after a very leisurely ride downtown.  The weather was sunny and cool, so I barely broke a sweat and was looking quite dapper when I arrived.  Here’s a picture of my freshly-shaved self just before I left.

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Admit it – I clean up good.

The dinner was quite a lot of fun.  The President of U of M, Dr. Shirley Raines, was there, and I was introduced to her as the new Center Director.  There was probably around 15-20 of the delegation there, plus some other important people, so it was fun to be able to flex my schmoozing skills.  And, I got invited to speak at an urban issues summit this weekend by State Representative G. A. Hardaway.  I’ll bike to that for sure.

The dinner ended just before 7:00 PM, and after a few wardrobe changes, I headed home.  Unfortunately, I forgot to tell my biking app, MotionX GPS, that I was heading home, so I only captured some of my ride home.  Regardless, here the map of my ride.

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The northern leg was my ride west to downtown.  You can see where I remembered to reactivate MotionX GPS, just where that little spur sticks up from Linden.  Here’s a clickable link for your enjoyment.

Tonight I’m biking to the FedEx Forum to help with a training session for some of the Grizzlies Team Mentors.  The mentors, in groups of three, meet weekly with local kids and teach them important life lessons.  My colleague, the current Center Director, and I are going to teach them a few financial literacy lessons.  Then it’s off to Boscos for my weekly beer and social time.  Come by if you like.

This weekend promises to be nice weather, so I hope to log some miles on my bike.  If I do, you can bet that you’ll read about it here.

Oh, and don’t forget: Cycle Memphis January is this weekend!  I hope to be able to ride, but it depends on some other stuff.

EPIC!

My friend/former student/fellow music afficionado Stacy and I have gone on several bike rides together in the past few months, some with the U of M Cycling Club, others just the two of us.  She happens to live really close to the Greenline, so we’ve biked that together at least once or twice.  Recently we had talked about biking out to Mud Island together from her place near campus, and since she’s moving to Nashville at the end of the week, we decided to make it happen this week.

Just in time for the brutal heat that is a Memphis summer of course.  Actually, it wasn’t too bad, as long as we were biking on bucolic Linden Avenue (the section between Rozelle and Cleveland) or the shadier portions of the Greenline.  But Linden Avenue downtown?  Forget it.

But what’s a little sunburn (and a wicked farmer/cyclist tan) when you have an epic bike-ride-map like this.

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And here’s that clickable link you all love.

But seriously, check that out?  I love the wide variety of neighborhoods we passed through, everything from the U of M campus area to the north end of Mud Island.  I got to see parts of Memphis I’ve never seen at all, even from a car, all from the comfort of my Gary Fisher.  It was really great.

As you can perhaps tell, I began my ride from Cooper-Young that morning, then biked down Southern (gotta love those bike lanes) through the East Buntyn community to campus and grabbed Stacy.  From there we biked through the Joffre area, to Chickasaw Gardens, past Tobey Park, behind Christian Brothers University, over East Parkway, and through Midtown on Harbert, Rozelle, then Linden.

Linden took us downtown to Third Street, which we followed north past I-40, where we picked up Second Street and biked north to Mud Island Road, which we followed south to the park.

After chillaxing at the park for a minute and stopping by Miss Cordelia’s for water, we crossed the bridge at Exchange Street and headed south on Second.  We retraced our path through downtown and Midtown but forked left on Humes and headed north to the Greenline, which we followed to High Point Terrace, then south to campus and Stacy’s soon-to-be-former house.  After more rehydration, I headed home.

The total mileage was 32.4 for me (slightly less for my biking buddy) and a whole lot of fun.  Once I get settled into summer school next week I am definitely going to plan more epic morning rides, at least one a week.  Summer heat be damned.

Bike-to-Work Day Memphis

I’m really excited to participate for the second time in National Bike-to-Work Day, which is scheduled for Friday, 20 May, this year in Memphis.  (I’m assuming that the name of the event is self-explanatory enough such that I don’t need to go into what it’s all about.)  If this year’s event is anything like last year, it should be great.  There’s a contest this year to see which company can get the most employees to bike in that day.  There will also be “energizer” stations in various locations around downtown to hand out goodies, snacks, water, and so on.  And there will be some lunch-time event at Court Square Park, with bike vendors and groups and a band and all that.

Last year was quite a bit of fun.  I met some random people at Otherlands Coffee – none of whom I had ever met before – and we biked to the energizer station in the South Main arts district.  Then, my fellow riders went to work and I … had breakfast.  Then hung around one of the local coffee houses for most of the day, until it was time to ride home.  You see, since I don’t work in downtown, it was Bike-to-Work Day for me in name only.  I did bike, just not to work.  Well, my work anyway.

I’d really like it if there was a Bike-to-Work Day outpost on campus, maybe at the fountain on the Student Plaza. Trouble is, 20 May is after spring semester ends and before summer term begins, so the campus will basically be a ghost town.  I do love that about my job, having summers off.  In the meantime, for me, every day is bike-to-work day.

Here’s a link to the event’s facebook page.  So far over 250 people like the event, and it would be really exciting if all 250+ actually biked to work that day.  I suspect that some of them are likes in principle, not in practice.  Still, support for biking is meaningful, even if not put into practice.

Oh, and I just noticed that you do have to register to participate.  All you submit is your name, email address, company, and where you want to pick up your schwag.