Two years in the making, pedicabs finally on a roll

By Gay Nagle Myers
NoLa PedicabThe newest way to get around New Orleans is also the most environmentally friendly.

Pedicabs -- people-powered vehicles that look like a cross between a tricycle and a rickshaw -- arrived on the streets of the city's tourist areas this fall.

Their debut was the result of a two-year round of discussions and debates that culminated in a lottery drawing at City Hall on Aug. 16 to pick the first three companies licensed to operate the vehicles.

Need a Ride, one of the three winners, opened for business once its 15 pedicabs arrived in late September.

"Business is great so far, thanks to a friendly reception from the city and word-of-mouth recommendations from hotels and restaurants plus our website and social media presence," said Suzanne Alford.

Owner and brother Evan Alford threw his company name into the city lottery along with 47 other hopefuls that had to undergo a rigorous application process, which included submission of a business plan and background checks.

"We had jokingly come up with the Need a Ride name, but once we won, we decided to keep it," Suzanne Alford said.

Reaction from the city's carriage drivers was mixed, she reported.

"They probably don't love us, but carriage drivers are licensed guides who offer a full tour," she said. "A pedicab is a bike taxi, taking people from point to point."

Need a Ride's vehicles were built by Mainstreet Pedicabs, a Denver firm that supplies most of the vehicles used in cities including New York; Washington; Santa Barbara, Calif.; Fort Lauderdale; and Charleston, S.C.

Each bike cost $4,000, and the three licensed companies are limited to 15 pedicabs each. They carry two passengers comfortably, a third on the lap if it is a child.

The city set the tariff, which must be prominently displayed in two places on each pedicab: $5 per person for the first six blocks, $1 per person for each additional block.

The drivers lease the pedicabs from Need a Ride, which lets them pocket the fares and tips.

"Pedicab drivers have to abide by all traffic laws, and they must stay within Orleans parish on streets where the speed limit is 35 mph or less," Alford said.

Most of them pedal where the tourists are, in the French Quarter, the Central Business District, the Marigny and the Warehouse District.

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For Caribbean and Mexico news, follow Gay Nagle Myers on Twitter @gnmtravelweekly. 
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