By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Sep 18, 2010 at 11:03 AM

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."


Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.