There's a new form of transportation in downtown Memphis, and it's run solely on pedal power.
Memphis Pedicab Company began offering rides on their carriage-style tricycles last week. Unlike taxis, horse carriages, or trolleys, rides on the two-seater pedicab are free of charge.
"But we do encourage you to tip our drivers so we can continue to provide a valuable service," co-owner Chris Copeland said.
The pedicabs pick up and drop off riders in an area bordered by G.E. Patterson, Auction, Riverside, and Third, although drivers are also available for parties, weddings, and other functions outside of downtown.
They'll operate every Thursday through Sunday night, as well as on special event nights, such as nights with Redbirds or Grizzlies games.
"We have to get Memphis used to the idea of catching a pedicab. It's very convenient, especially since a lot of what's going on downtown on a Friday or Saturday night is contained in a two-block radius," co-owner Jeremy Reese said.
On opening weekend, Copeland said many onlookers weren't exactly sure what to make of the three-wheeled, open-air carriages.
"People are interested and they look and point and ooh and ahh, but they don't know how to utilize what we have to offer yet," Copeland said.
Currently, Memphis Pedicab Company has two vehicles canvassing downtown and two more are on order. Customers hail down a pedicab to catch a ride.
Pedicabs have been around for years in many major cities, such as Austin, New York, Dallas, and Los Angeles, and drivers often take on the role of energetic tour guides. Copeland said Memphis Pedicab is currently seeking drivers who won't be shy about interacting with riders.
Although the pedicab is powered solely by pedaling, Copeland said drivers don't have to be too athletic because the bikes are geared low to make pedaling easier despite added weight.
Copeland and Reese met at a previous employer and decided to launch their business, filling a need for affordable, environmentally friendly travel in downtown Memphis.
They secured sponsors, such as Jack Magoo's Sports Pub, Huey's, and Local. Sponsors receive an ad on the side of the pedicab, and their money keeps Memphis Pedicab Company in operation.
Although the company is starting with only four cabs, they plan to eventually grow to a fleet of eight or 10.
"Right now, people just wave us down and hop on. We would like to grow so that we can be dispatched and have people depend on us if they call for a ride," Reese said. "But we need a bigger fleet for that. That's what we hope to have going into next spring or summer."
Although they're offering free rides downtown, Copeland wants to make one thing clear: They're not trying to compete with other modes of transportation.
"We're not competing because our clientele are not the people who want to hop in a taxi for a ride across town. The horse carriages add charm to downtown, but that's better for a tour of downtown," Copeland said. "We're a point-A-to-point-B service when you want to get there in style, remain outside in the environment, and have a good time doing it."