Who says there no such thing as a free ride? Certainly not budding entrepreneur and cycling enthusiast Mike Barrett.
The Penticton resident, who has worked as a coroner for the last 12 years, is a firm believer that life is a journey and getting “there,” should be much more than half the fun.
To that end, the aim of his new business, Penticton Velo-Cab Tours and Taxi Service, is providing assistance, not just making money.
“This is kind of a two-part thing,” said Barrett, who came up with the plan as a way to ease he and his family into retirement. “It’s a public service by giving free rides as a courtesy to those who might be disadvantaged, who have mobility issues and require a little extra service and time. Then there is a rate for the other people who want to do something, like take a wine tour or go to a restaurant.
“That way it’s kind of a pay-it-forward thing, where those who do pay cover the cost of say, seniors who may want to go to the shopping centre or just get out and get some fresh air.”
What he has now is a fleet of six, space-age, streamline three-wheelers with a warp drive of up to 28 km/h, fuelled by electrically enhanced pedal power.
Made in China, the pedicabs are described by some as rickshaws on steroids but they certainly are turning some heads locally.
The fun aspect for the 62-year-old comes in the reaction of people who see the cabs for the first time and the interaction he has with his riders.
“I can tell you my customers in this business are a lot more talkative than the other job,” he said with a laugh. “I don’t like being the centre of attention but I can’t believe the more I ride, the more I enjoy it. People are waving and honking. It’s great.”
He actually found the design for the mainly enclosed contraptions online, and last year sent off an order to the company in China that makes them.
He received the pedicabs last October and he waited until this spring to put them on the road.
Using rechargeable batteries, the electric motor kicks in to assist the driver to make the pedalling portion of the ride easier, especially on steep hills.
They also come equipped with hydraulic brakes and 21 gears.
“The thing that everybody really seems to like is just how environmentally friendly they are, which people these days seem to be very conscious of,” said Barrett. “And so far, I don’t think I’ve made any enemies driving around. I’m trying to follow good bike etiquette and set a good example.”
While at this point he is not predicting how the new business will pan out, Barrett is getting lots of enjoyment from his new job.
“I guess we’ll see what happens, the worst case is the grandkids will get some pretty neat presents for Christmas,” he said.
Anyone wanting to book a ride can call 250-490-5191 or for more information go to penticton-velocab.com. Barrett also wants anyone interested in driving the vehicles this summer to contact him.