Human-powered cabs take off in Breckenridge
summit daily news
In a town comprised of boutiques making business based on niche markets of head wear, eccentric fabric creations, spices, crepes and more, the drivers for a non-traditional transportation enterprise may fit right in traversing the quaint, ski-town streets of Breckenridge.
Pedicab is a recently-launched cycling transportation service based on Breckenridge’s Main Street and at the Breckenridge Ski Resort gondola. For a $10 flat fare, guests can be transported by cab attached to a bicycle to most in-town locations. Drivers negotiate fees for longer distances – and, as is the case with most cab services, tips are always appreciated.
The business’s exposure has been increasing since its launch in early December, meaning business is improving slightly for the crew of eight drivers who act as independent contractors. Co-owner Heather Olson said drivers would generally see zero to one ride per hour at the early December launch. During the Christmas and New Year’s holiday and with the associated influx of visitors, they had about two to three per hour during busy times. Drivers keep their wages after paying back the Pedicab rental fee.
Co-owner Kevin Holmquest and Olson have lived in Breckenridge for several years, all the while wondering how they could enter into business together. Holmquest also runs his At Your Breck and Call concierge service and Olson works full time at Valley Girl on Main Street. Amidst that work, they’ve decided to push the Pedicab envelope by bringing it to 9,600 feet – again. Most other similar enterprises don’t contend as heavily with the elements, but with studded snow tires on the bicycles, covered cabs and the ability to call the drivers in when snowfall reaches 5 to 6 inches, Holmquest and Olson think they can offer the service even in the heart of winter.
“No one is going to rely on a taxi to shop,” Olson said, outlining the market for short-distance transportation in town. “No one is going to rely on a horse-drawn carriage, because that’s an event in itself.”
They basically envision the Pedicab service as a green way for visitors to be shown shopping or restaurant suggestions – or to get an introductory tour to Breckenridge.
Or, “even if it’s something as simple as getting from the gondola to the car when the family’s exhausted (after skiing),” Olson added. The pedicabs are equipped with ski and snowboard racks. As long as the weight is less than the limit, everyone can ride for $10.
But this idea has been around before, in Breckenridge, no less. What’s different this time around? Holmquest and Olson worked with town officials for about four months to get everything aligned, including procuring advertising permits. The ability to put ads on the cabs makes the business more viable, but allowing advertising on the cabs meant a change in the town’s code. Breckenridge spokeswoman Kim DiLallo said council members were concerned about a “slippery slope” of making concessions to other businesses whose business plan would be viable with certain exceptions.
In the end, though, “The town really wanted it and wanted to see it succeed,” Holmquest said.
DiLallo said the idea spoke to a number of town council members in terms of “being a more sustainable Breck” as well as the enterprise’s ability to add unique character to the business mix in town. Because of that, they were willing to give Pedicab another chance by making a code change.
Another change in Pedicab this time around is central dispatching. It should help overcome the awkwardness some find in hailing a bicycle cab. Cell phones connect dispatch to the drivers.
And being able to fulfill the niche of a tour service that’s accessible to children and the elderly as well as the able-bodied may also help the business.
It’s an interesting idea-turned-reality for the drivers. They tote a cab that’s potentially 500 or more pounds behind a 21-speed bicycle.
“Main Street is a lot hillier than you think,” said Holmquest, who can sometimes be seen pedaling a pedicab himself. “It’s definitely a workout.”
The biggest challenge for the new business is getting the word out, Holmquest said. The co-owners have been working diligently on partnerships with bars, shops, lodging concierges and more. Holmquest estimates that a partnership with the Breckenridge Resort Chamber and the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance for the tour service could shake out by mid-January.
“We want people to go from thinking, ‘That’s a great idea and that’s cool,’ to, ‘That’s a great idea and that’s cool … Can I get a ride?'” Holmquest said.
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