2018-05-31 / Front Page

Pedicabs Already in Gear for Summer

By Leif Walcutt

Dozens of pedicab drivers will have filled the tires and cleaned the seats of the pedicabs readying them for the season's passengers. 
(Photo by Leif Walcutt) Dozens of pedicab drivers will have filled the tires and cleaned the seats of the pedicabs readying them for the season's passengers. (Photo by Leif Walcutt) As the daffodils bloom and the summer tourists flock to Newport, expect to see another annual return to the city. Pedicab season has begun.

Two pedicab companies “run” the streets of Newport. Only 18 pedicabs can operate in the city, with Newport Pedicab owning 12 and Pirate Pedicab owning six. “Unless legislation changes, other people couldn’t start up,” said David Cass, who runs Pirate Pedicab. “There’s a rigorous process to get licensed.”

For the 2018 season, Cass started recruiting new drivers and performed general upkeep of the pedicabs in early April. “Putting together a good team of drivers, guiding them through the licensing process, as well as safety training, are all part of the preparation,” he said.

Pedicabs have been in Newport since 2005. Initially, there was opposition to them, specifically to how their presence would affect traffic. But Cass said they fill an important role by taking cars off the road. “It’s a green form of transportation,” he said.

Both pedicab companies operate on a “pay as you wish” structure, with a suggested donation. “The customer can pay whatever they feel the ride was worth,” said Newport Pedicab Manager Justin Richardson.

Richardson says the company often offers customizable tours, including “party rides” and mansion sightseeing. “One of our most popular tours is the ‘Viking Ride.’ This is the most challenging ride we do, navigating up the steep hill to Bellevue Ave,” he said.

Richardson, who has driven a pedicab for four seasons, says the busiest time is during the Newport Folk Festival, Fourth of July, and the city’s food and wine festival.

“At one point before ride shares, Newport Pedicab was the most reliable way to get around town,” he said. “Though ride shares have affected the business, we are happy that they are there, as they can do long rides which we cannot, making the roads safer.”

Pedicab drivers must pass a background check and apply for a pedicab license through the city. They’re also given safety training.

Pedicabs are a form of “transportainment” for tourists visiting Newport, Cass said. “It provides transportation, but also a ride that people will remember when they come to the city.”

Pirate Pedicab has about 20 people who ride various numbers of times throughout the summer. “For some people it’s their full-time thing, riding four or five times a week,” Cass said.

Others will get on the pedicab one day a week for exercise. It varies driver to driver,” said Cass. Newport Pedicab has a group of 30-40 drivers.

“Over the years we’ve established a really good reputation and people now see the positive role we not only play in the economy, but also in terms of safety and green environment,” said Cass.

“When it’s time for the night to end and restaurants and bars are closing, we’re able to swoop into a spot and take a lot of people away right away. People aren't congregating and we can disperse crowds really quickly,” he said.

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