The Pedicab Project

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 educate, orient, and deploy local entrepreneurs as specialists in public information. 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 local 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, etc. These resources need to be put into place, to provide operators, everywhere, with the tools needed to fulfill these tasks, as part of a non-profit cooperative. 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 one of the most important and profitable ones.

It is expected that local travel, on its regular route, could be offered at no charge, although tips would be invited. This unusual arrangement is possible if the earnings from the real estate, jobs, advertising, private transport, and other activities turn out to 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 suitable locations within their 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, including the provision of free terminals. Some literature can also be available, and some 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 mandatory practices, and a process for dealing with situations where these regulations are being ignored. Without one fully-operational example of this actually working, it may be difficult to convince anyone that all of this is possible. Granted, there are many unique, and therefore as yet unproven, elements here, and the right individuals will need to be recruited, initially, to maximize the possibility that it will work well, but the quality of this opportunity is such that it should attract the best candidates to take it on.

This will be organized as a profit-making venture, partly under the jurisdiction of a non-profit entity. It is a business that, along with being profitable and relatively trouble-free, also has the goal of humanizing this activity,  aiding the urban environment, and providing a full measure of dignity to those engaged in the enterprise. It is being designed to do this, while also helping to enable local communities everywhere, to find their own voices, and generate the best available means of providing the essentials of life to all of their inhabitants. One feature here is in the form of an ultra-local, Craigslist-style resource, that can guarantee that unwanted resources can find a home, would be welcomed by everyone.

The Half, is an NYC legal pedicab, designed with some of these functions in mind. Regardless of its excellent suitability, 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.