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In Travel & Visitors Guide

Carolyn Weber transported five Summerfest goers in her rickshaw. Another time, a dog. She loves her job. (PHOTO: Royal Bonde-Griggs)

Cream City Rickshaw closes out season with new digs, more insight


Cream City Rickshaw, Milwaukee's only full-service pedicab company, started up in August of 2009, but the business didn't really start rolling until this summer.

Owner Andrew Otis, who founded the eco-friendly transportation alternative after researching similar businesses in New York City and Portland, says the summer of 2010 provided valuable learning experiences.

"This year was our first full season. It gave us a chance to absorb everything and to figure out, for example, which festivals make the most sense for us to hit," says Otis.

Summerfest, Italian Fest and Jazz In The Park, according to Otis, generated the most business for his eco-friendly rickshaws. One of Otis' drivers, Carolyn Weber, started pedicabbing in May and transported five passengers from Summerfest the following month.

"The job gets you in shape quickly," she says.

In July, Otis moved the business from Land Street on the East Side to 905 E. Center St. in Riverwest. Otis purchased the storefront -- which was formerly the Mars Hotel dance club -- and the cottage behind it. He is currently rehabbing the commercial space.

"I was paying an arm and a leg renting off of Brady," says Otis. "I have spent a lot of time in Riverwest, and most of my drivers live here -- plus I got a good deal on the properties -- so it makes sense for me to be here."

Otis says he hopes to open a second shop in the Bay View neighborhood next season.

Last year, Otis hired 15 drivers -- all of whom work as independent contractors and are required to have a valid pedicab license -- but during this summer he had a fleet of 25 drivers. Drivers more or less create their own schedules, but Otis prefers they have at least one shift per week. The shifts run in the morning, afternoon or evening.

"We're slowly trying to crack into the day market," he says.

For Weber, who recently graduated with a master's degree in library and information science and women's studies from UW-Milwaukee, Cream City Rickshaw is ideal temporary employment.

"Pedicabbing can be the most fun five hours that I have ever worked in a job," she says. "I always leave a shift in a good mood, excited to have met so many great people and have explored Milwaukee and the people who live here and visit here."

Another new development for Cream City Rickshaw is that the business now dispatches. Prior, it was only possible to hail a rickshaw, but now, customers can request a driver via the Web site.

Cream City Rickshaw only accepts "tips for trips," but Weber recommends passengers pay about what they would spend on a cab. This, of course, doesn't always happen.

"I generally make good tips, but I have definitely been stiffed before. Once, a woman gave me $1 for a ride from North Avenue to Cathedral Square," says Weber. "In general, the tips really range. I have received tips from 35 cents to $100."

Otis says the key to successful pedicabbing is education. Cities like Portland and Austin "get it," whereas Milwaukee is beginning to catch on to the concept of self-regulating the price of an eco-friendly ride.

"It's getting better and better," says Otis. "The more the public see people in the back of a rickshaw, and the more people talk about the benefits of this form of transportation, the more it's going to work for everyone."


Talkbacks

Victor Golf | Sept. 23, 2010 at 8:59 a.m. (report)

Wow, I didn't know they were free to ride. That's pretty cool.

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Conor8it | Sept. 22, 2010 at 12:02 p.m. (report)

The rickshaws will be in Whitefish Bay this Saturday, September 25 at the Bridal Walk. Can't wait to take a ride.

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feral_human | Sept. 19, 2010 at 9:55 a.m. (report)

Hey Natemarq: the rickshaws are obviously not for everyone. Power to those who'd rather walk, run, or do their own bicycling. If you are in a massive hurry then go ahead and hop in a taxi cab, but you're definitely not going to get the same experience (sometimes when there are traffic jams we are A LOT faster though). CCR's bike cabs smell a lot better, are more romantic and/or relaxing, and in general, the drivers are more fun. Using a gas-powered vehicle less often is always a good thing and unlike the horse carriages, rickshaw drivers all fully consent to hauling you around. We have our niche.

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feral_human | Sept. 19, 2010 at 9:44 a.m. (report)

I'm a regular driver for CCR and just wanted to add thoughts on what were the best events this summer. I shockingly did NOT find Festa Italiana to be that great (Polish Fest was better for me and that's much smaller). Irish Fest was the best ethnic festival by far and I did almost as well as I did during Summerfest. Jazz in the Park is a great event to drive on for a Thursday night but it doesn't compete with an average Friday or Saturday night. Otherwise, the street festivals have always been a sure bet. Brady Street Festival was fun and the Bay View Bash (just last night) was a great opportunity to be in Bay View. Gallery Night is always cool, the Lady Gaga show was awesome, and any time there's nothing going on, any of the hotels (particularly Hilton, Hyatt, and Pfister) are a great place to find riders.

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Natemarq | Sept. 18, 2010 at 7:37 p.m. (report)

Why would i need to take a historic tour when I can walk and do it myself!!!

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