Bringing Pedicabs into the 21st Century,
all the way from the 19th must involve a complete re-conceptualization of this opportunity. Factors include urban transportation, localization, entrepreneurship, and information. There is no historical model for this approach, and to some extent, it is now possible only due to recent advances in technology. In New York City, and in many places with similar density around the world, there is a need for the creation of a service such as this. It would:
Call for the construction of vehicles, fully accessible to wheelchairs, no larger than the 120” x 54” limits now in effect in NYC regulations guiding pedicabs. These conveyances would be fitted with movable solar roofs and wall panels which can be consolidated, when the weather permits, allowing the vehicle to be completely open to the outside, like a bike. At other times, all of these clear windows will be closed to provide for the comfort of riders.
Allow the use of these vehicles to be varied in the course of the day. There would be two or three operators of each vehicle since it would be operational during a long day. It would be available for very profitable tours, private passenger or package delivery, while a portion of the time, it would ply an established route. These 20-60 minute circuits would take it to local transit locations and other important features of their neighborhood. A serious attempt would be made to hold to an approximate schedule. Locals would come to expect this service to be available on a regular basis. Depending on the neighborhood and the desires of the operators, this would happen five times a day or 35 times.
Although it increases the complexity, the most beneficial use of this opportunity would involve vehicles plying regular routes, during part of the day, while providing a host of other helpful transportation and other services at other times. There are other informational and community-based assets that could be enhanced this way, through the design of appropriate vehicles and the establishment of the resources necessary to train and deploy local entrepreneurs as specialists in public information regarding employment, real estate, education, and entertainment activity. While there are special permits required to engage in certain activities, this element can be constructed to respect those regulations, while enabling individuals to be part of that process and benefit from it.
If you have the latest and best information as regards living and working spaces, especially shared ones, you are entitled to use this information to provide you with some income. The same goes for jobs, services, and educational and entertainment connections. There needs to be a legal framework designed and implemented, a way for charges to be billed, for instance, a way to track the location of vehicles on missions, the resources put into place that can aid operators in fulfilling these tasks. A corresponding digital, online reference point, must also be put in place, to expand the reach of these activities. In time, this element could become the most important and profitable one.
It is expected that local travel could be offered at no charge, although tips would be permitted. This is possible if the earnings from the real estate, jobs, advertising, private transport, and other activities would be sufficient to provide for a very substantial livelihood. This does not take into account the other potential ways, in which involvement in this profession could enhance lives. Becoming a relevant part of an ongoing community can open up other avenues, social and business connections, access to positive situations and possibilities. One can become a roving, but also fixed, element of the surroundings. In fact, some time should be spent, by each vehicle, at fixed locations within the routes, so that they might be accessed by locals who want to provide them with relevant information or access it. This provides for a rest period, perhaps a snack, and closer interactions with the rest of the local community. Some literature can be available and the resemblance of this phenomenon to the city’s historic network of local newsstands can be established. Any local publications can be provided with an outlet, including some of the more esoteric, art, poetry, literature, etc.
It is understood, that operators would need to be helped to master the skills needed to make this a very profitable and satisfying way to make a living. They would also need to perform their duties to a high standard of excellence to be enabled to continue their efforts. The plan here is that successful operators would need to agree to spend a certain minimal amount of time orienting new operators and helping them succeed. The intention here is to form a community of operators, who will democratically establish the means to guarantee the high quality of these activities, while expanding the operations continuously, in order to enable more people to craft these meaningful opportunities, to improve their own, as well as everybody else’s, lives.
It is expected that those involved in this program would begin their careers as operators, after appropriate orientation, etc. to determine whether they enjoy and are suited for this work. Once they are established, it will be possible for them to begin to earn ownership of the vehicle and the business associated with it. Over time, the multiple operators of each location will have an agreement among them that outlines their responsibilities and possible rewards. This requires a high degree of responsibility and maturity and will need to be guided by a set of guidelines and a process for dealing with situations where these regulations are being ignored. Without one fully-operational example of how this can work, it may be difficult to convince anyone that it is possible. There are so many unique, and therefore unproven, elements, that this is not a surprise. Regardless, the right individuals will need to be recruited, in the beginning, to maximize the possibility that it will work well.
This will be organized as a profit-making venture, under the jurisdiction of a non-profit entity. It is a business that has, among its goals, the humanization of urban environments, providing a full measure of dignity to those engaged in the enterprise, to help enable local communities to find their own voices while generating the means of providing the essentials to all of their inhabitants. An ultra-local Craigslist-style resource, that can guarantee that unwanted objects can find a home, would be welcomed by everyone.
The Half, NYC legal pedicab, is displayed at LightWheels.com and is designed with some of these functions in mind. Regardless of its excellent suitability to perform these tasks, it is hoped that, over time, other highly individuated and attractive designs for these vehicles will emerge and be put into use. If created with respect for the unique surroundings that it plies, these designs can come to represent their individual streets and neighborhoods, their history, and special assets. As well as being the most useful objects imaginable, they could also become some of the most distinctive and beautiful ones as well.