A centuries-old form of transportation has made a resurgence in the District as DC Pedicab began peddling its service — a ride on the back of a bicycle-drawn carriage — this weekend.
Bicycle pedicabs, the modern version of 18th-century carts pulled by runners, are common in Asia and Europe. But in recent years, modern pedicab companies have opened in New York, San Diego, Chicago, Green Bay, Wis., and Charleston, S.C.
DC Pedicab plans to start out with six drivers — on three-wheel bikes fitted with a three-person carriage — roaming the city, biking passengers to tourist and nightlife destinations.
“There is nothing like it in the D.C. market,” said co-owner Ryan Guthrie. “I think it’s going to be really big with the tourist crowd … and the nightlife angle in Dupont and Adams Morgan.”
Passengers will be able to flag down a ride or call ahead and reserve a driver, who will be zoned largely around Gallery Place, Dupont Circle and the National Mall.
Fares are up to the individual contractors, but will be about $4.50 per person for a ride. Bikers won’t be able to take passengers to traffic-congested Georgetown and will be limited by the city’s borders and large hills, such as the climb north on Connecticut Avenue NW toward Adams Morgan.
“If a very motivated guy wanted to go from Dupont uphill to Adams Morgan, he can negotiate with the independent contractor,” Mr. Guthrie joked.
The company is expected to hear back from the National Park Service this week about whether it can ride along the Mall.
“As long as we can work with the Park Service, this will be a big market for us,” he said.
Hours will depend on the contractors’ availability, Mr. Guthrie said.
Mr. Guthrie said part of the attraction to pedicabs is that they’re different from other transportation options.
“It’s cheaper than a cab,” he said. “But also, it’s an experience. You can be outside, the wind blowing in your hair, and a driver to get you where you need to go.”
Mr. Guthrie and college friend John Zielke were sniffing around for a business idea when they heard about a New York pedicab business and thought it would work in Washington.
For now, Pedicab is their part-time business, but they hope eventually to build it — the goal is 30 bikes within five years — into full-time work.
Mr. Guthrie said pedaling passengers through traffic isn’t as hard as it sounds, and he has about 14 contractors interested in covering day and evening shifts on the six bikes. The service likely will close for three months during the winter.
DC Pedicab is modeled after similar services in other cities, but especially Charleston, S.C., which operates 20 bikes.
“I personally think if Washington is done right, we can have 30 bikes at least,” he said.
Start-up money — the amount of which the company declined to reveal — went largely to bicycles and insurance, Mr. Guthrie said.
“We’re not just tying a red wagon to the back of our Schwinn 10-speed,” he said, adding that the company has high safety standards its contractors must meet.
Pedicabs are available by calling 202/345-8065 or visiting dcpedicab.com.
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