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The pedi-cab economy

July 30, 2015

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A pedi-cab in San Francisco. Photo via frogMob on Flickr.

Does your town have pedi-cabs, those bicycle driven carts that haul people and tourists around?

You might think they’re a nuisance, as some motorists do, but it turns out that pedi-cabs are creating their own mini-economy. CityLab recently featured Washington, D.C., pedi-cab driver Donald Clark, a high school history teacher by day, who offers transportation and narrated tours as part of a pedi-cab cooperative.

In the interview, Clark revealed some interesting things about the pedi-cab economy.

Rates: Clark starts at $24 per person, and gives about a dozen rides a day. A narrated tour costs more. Clark recently motored four women around for four hours, and just did that one ride all day.

Working conditions: It’s “very rough.” Pedi-cab drivers are hauling people in temperatures of up to 100F, and in rainstorms. Clark says he drinks a lot of liquids, eats fruit and carbs throughout the day.

Who drives? People from their 20s through their 70s. For many, it’s their primary job, and pedi-cab drivers are mobile. Some take their bikes to warmer climates during winter months and come up north in summer.

Who rides? Tourists from all over the world, although Clark says he gets some locals who just want a quick trip home or to dinner.

Aggregations: When people don’t tip.

For story ideas, talk to your local pedi-cab drivers. Have there been any skirmishes with local officials? What do pedi-cab drivers think of ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft? Find out whether your community’s pedi-cabs are growing and what locals think of them.


  • Micheline Maynard

    Micheline is a contributing columnist at the Washington Post concentrating on business and culture. She has written about flooding in Detroit, tainted water in Benton Harbor, nationwide shortages of restaurant staff, and vaccine hesitancy.

    View all posts

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