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Pedicabs riding high after DNC

Ted Koppel rolled with Bobby Lentell (left) and other Denver pedicabbers.
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While Denver’s pedicab community may not have been part of the official "green extravaganza" planned for the Democratic National Convention last week, the environmentally friendly three-wheeled vehicles still ended up making a splash.

"I am just on cloud nine. It’s just fantastic," says Steve Meyer, owner of Main Street Pedicabs, a pedicab manufacturing company based in Broomfield, and a cheerleader of sorts for the industry. "To see what I think the pedicabs did for the convention is really something."

According to Meyer’s count, there were 73 pedicabs making the rounds last week (forty were part of Denver’s Mile High Pedicabs, which Meyer co-owns, and the rest were either from other companies or independent drivers). Figuring that each pedicab was out for twelve hours per day for five days straight, and that the vehicles go roughly fifteen miles per hour, Meyer estimates Denver’s three-wheeled squad clocked in a total of 26,280 miles. That’s an impressive number, especially considering all 1,000 of the Freewheelin free bikes only managed to cover 26,463 miles.

It’s hard to argue with that sort of on-the-ground visibility. Pedicabs were whisking delegates up and down the 16h Street Mall, dropping folks off at Invesco for Barack Obama’s speech (they were allowed much closer access to the stadium than they were to the Pepsi Center) and "pedal pick-ups" designed by Meyer’s company were even collecting trash and bikes from the Freewheelin bike check-out station. A Wall Street Journal blogger wondered, "Ice cream cones and X-ray machines were popularized at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. Will ‘pedicabs’ – those passenger carts pulled by bicycle riders – be mainstreamed by the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver?”

Meyer sure hopes so – and he says he’s already seen signs pointing in that direction. "Some people came today to look at our pedal trucks because they saw them being used for recycling and moving the free bicycles around," he notes. "There have been people calling, most notably from other cities that are interested in having pedicabs at big events in their cities."

The individual pedicab drivers are happy with how the convention turned out, too. "I would say it was a utopia for pedicabs," says Bobby Lentell, who leases one of the Mile High pedicabs. He estimates he worked for a total of fifty hours in four days, but it was worth it. He won’t say exactly he made, but word on the street is that pedicab riders made, on average, in the four digits. Of course, cash isn’t the only thing Lentell got out of the week. There were invites to super-exclusive parties, photo ops with VIPS, and the feeling that he was right in the middle of the action. "It was freakin’ awesome," he says. "It was probably the most fun I have had on one of these things." -- Joel Warner

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