Courtesy of Alameda Pedicab
I am enjoying a lovely ride in Jerry Meissner’s pedicab on a beautiful spring afternoon. The pedicab — basically a small carriage drawn by a “driver” pedaling a bike — is a cheerful yellow. The seats are soft. I’ve been given a blanket in case I catch a chill. And the pace is, well, slow. Going just 7 miles per hour — maybe 10 in a good downwind — a pedicab ride feels a lot like being in a horse-drawn buggy. Cars going 25 mph race by. Bicyclists swoop past us. Heck, even roller skaters seem to be traveling the speed of light as we creak and sway through the Gold Coast. But it feels old-fashioned. It feels green. It makes me feel like belting out “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top,” even though there’s no fringe. And no snow white horses.
The cab I’m in is just one of eight owned by the newishly hatched Alameda Pedicab, a new “green valet” service launched by Alamedan Jerry Meissner in 2010. The pedicabs are the perfect way to get people from one place to another in a leisurely, environmentally sustainable way — and part of a booming trend in cities across the country.
Meissner isn’t running a “bike taxi,” service he points out. He’s more oriented to both private and public special events. Over the last two years, for example, Alameda Pedicab has shuttled party guests to and from the parking lot at the USS
Hornet during Swing Nights and 4th of July celebrations, among booths and buildings at conferences, and from wedding venues to receptions. (The most elaborate wedding was a Sikh wedding out in Modesto, where the driver wore a turban and traditional garb and the pedicab itself was carefully decorated with traditional flower arrangements.)
And while the company does not do a lot of private rides, it does offer a “Sunset Picnic Special” (complete with blanket, picnic basket and souvenir wine glasses), as well as a “Romantic Night Out Special” (your pedicab will serve as your green limousine), and private historic tours — all by reservation. The base rate is $55 per hour, although it can be more if customers want flowers or other special touches. The sunset special ride, by comparison, is $100 and includes roses.
Meissner started the service in Alameda after moving here from the East Coast. He had seen pedicabs in Provincetown, Cape Cod — and knew they were becoming increasingly common in convention, university and tourist-friendly cities. When he and his wife saw Alameda, they thought, “If there’s any place on the West Coast to have a pedicab business, this is it,” he says. “It’s flat here. The town is pedestrian- and bike-friendly. There’s a 25 mile-per-hour limit and Bike Alameda is actively working to create more infrastructures. It’s perfect for this service.”
Asked if pedaling a pedicab is hard work for the driver, Meissner explains that although the cabs themselves weigh 300 pounds and can fit two adults and a child, pedaling is not that hard. “They’re made of special aluminum developed for light airplane technology,” he says. “They’re relatively lightweight.” Still, he notes, “a driver who isn’t fit won’t last very long.”
As we pedal through the Gold Coast (well, I wasn’t pedaling, just enjoying the ride), a number of pedestrians look up, startled, at the pretty yellow carriage gliding through the streets. Then they smile and wave. Meissner waves back gaily. “I like to make people happy,” he says. “I like to put a smile on peoples’ faces. This service makes people feel good.”
To find out more, contact: Alameda Pedicab, (510) 274-1065, www.alameda-pedicab.com.