Pedicabs and Pedal Trolleys
Pedaling around downtown and beyond
by Bob & Jorja Feldman
From the July, 2019 issue
A pedicab cruises along Main St. or around the Diag, the driver engaged in animated conversation with passengers. A pedal trolley loads up passengers in front of Arbor Brewing Company and takes off, eight or more pairs of legs pumping together in harmony.
The vehicles are quite different, and the services are too. The pedicabs offer short rides, transportation at special events, tours of Central Campus, and more. The pedal trolleys are for partying, pure and simple.
Boober Tours' vehicles are made in Colorado by Main Street Pedicabs. They're substantial steel-frame tricycles with twenty-one-speed mountain-bike drivetrains. Shocks and padded seats contribute to passenger comfort. On a short ride downtown, we rolled along smoothly at under ten miles per hour. Boober owner Kevin Spangler chatted as he pedaled; he encourages other drivers, who work independently, to do likewise.
Boober also has three custom-built passenger carts which are somewhat easier to get into and can hold up to eight people. The pedicabs that pull these carts are equipped with electric motors (as are a few of the others). The motors supplement rather than replace pedal power.
The pedicabs cruise mainly around Main, Liberty, the Diag, and South University. Weather permitting, the company operates 365 days a year. Typically, one to four pedicabs are on the streets during the day. Eight to twelve are out at night and on into the early morning hours, taking people to nearby hotels or homes from restaurants and bars. Services are obtained by phoning or by hailing a cruising cab.
Pricing is flexible, with Boober asking for a donation for short hop-on, hop-off rides. Compensation for longer rides is determined on an ad hoc basis.
By way of contrast, all High Five Pedal Tours services must be booked in advance. They normally follow specific routes at set times, though custom tours can be arranged. High Five does not operate during the winter.
Driver Doug Conlin calls the High Five trolley a "pedal pub." While beer and wine
are not sold on board, a cooler is available, and passengers are free to bring their own alcohol in non-glass containers. (Hard spirits are not permitted.) Local pubs and breweries are high on the list of tour destinations. On board, it's party time: upbeat music blares, and Conlin acts as a de facto cheerleader.
Unlike the pedicab drivers, Conlin does not pedal. His role is to steer, brake, and strive to ensure his passengers are safe and having a good time. The trolley has an electric assist motor, but primary power comes from up to eight pedaling passengers. (Two inward-facing saddles and a rear bench seat allow a few more to ride without pedaling.)
Pedal Saloon is another trolley company offering tours in Ann Arbor. We weren't able to reach them before our deadline, but, according to their website, individual as well as group tickets may be purchased, provided at least six people sign up for a tour.
Further details on all three services
are at their respective websites: boobertours.com, highfivepedaltours.com, and pedalsaloon.com.
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