10 September 2009

Boston Pedicab makes me sad

My Mom is here! Hurray! Her last visit to Boston was in 2007. When she was leaving I asked what the highlight of her trip had been. My wedding shower? Visiting our family? Nope. The highlight of her trip was taking a pedicab downtown to dine at the harbor.

"OK" I thought, "we can start this visit off with style". I had it all planned. Mom would arrive at Logan and take the Blue Line just to Government Center where my husband and I would zip over by bike. We'd dine on the waterfront and caravan to my apartment by bike & pedicab for mom and her suitcase.

I checked the Boston Pedicab website, we would be well within the service area, timeframe, and guidelines. Just to be safe we made a point of finishing up our cappuccino before the bottom of the sixth inning, knowing that a home game would make cabs scarce. I had no idea that a home game meant that they would refuse us service entirely. They don't say that on the website!

All this has led me to the sudden shocking revelation that Boston Pedicabs are a fun gimmick if you can get one, like the horse-drawn carriages or the rockin' party bus, but not a reliable transportation solution. My own mother doesn't read this blog and I think our experience last night underlies why - we loaded her into a gasoline cab and raced across town to not leave her on the stoop too long, because pedal power remains a fringe activity which is not something my mother can embrace.

I sit here chastened, no longer so smug in my certainty that bikes are a solution for our city transportation needs. Bummer.


Scott Loveless said...

Don't give up. Bikes are certainly a solution, even if Boston Pedicabs sees itself as not much more than a tourist attraction.

dr2chase said...

Bikes are a solution, if you can get people to use them. A cargo bike would let you (or your better half) haul your mom and and her suitcase, without depending on some flaky business that might or might not go vacation for a Sox game.

There are more and more choices available, from Bakfiets, to Bullitt, to Big Dummy, to Yuba Mundo -- or nab a used bike on Craigslist and start with an Xtracycle. You can haul your mom, another bike, groceries, what have you.

But you knew I would say that...

Charlotte said...

DrChase, I would love the Xtracycle but I really have nowhere to park it. I agree though, that I can't rely on a flaky business! If I'd have just known this was the business model I would have made additional plans - called another company, scheduled a ride ahead of time, something. It never even dawned on me that they would just refuse to come out at any time last night. We could have had an after-dinner drink and wait for their convenience, but they wouldn't come out at all!

Da Goof said...

I looked over their site and discovered this little tidbit in the Wedding Rates flyer:

"Important Note:
Pedicabs are fully booked for all Red Sox home games. If your wedding
requires a rental within 2 hours of a game, there will be a 50% surcharge."

And on the Services page under home games at Fenway Park:
"We cover a 20 minute walk in 4 minutes"

This tells me it's a cash cow for them to shuttle people for the game only. Since they can only move 38 people at a time leaving all the rides at the park makes good business sense. Just not common sense.

I certainly don't agree with leaving everyone else in town with no transportation, especially since it's not clearly spelled out.

dr2chase said...

That's a problem, but where do you keep your car?

Maybe someone needs to start a (flaky) bike-parking business, where they sublet a space in a garage, installed a locked cage, and let people store some number of bikes in it.

Or maybe this is an issue for (y)our allegedly bike-friendly mayor.

Charlotte said...

Da Goof - thank you for finding that. When I called dispatch it was the bottom of the 6th, the Sox were down just one run, and I think most fans would be staying put for at least another 20 minutes (the time it took us to get home). As it happened the gasoline cab charged less than I would have paid the pedicab, so we at least had that savings.

I think that if they want to call themselves a cab service, but they have exclusionary policies like the one you found, they should put that info out there - on their web page and on the cards they hand out saying "call us anytime" so I could know - call anytime the Sox aren't playing.

DrChase - bike parking is getting to be the most serious issue remaining for cyclists in Boston. Maybe the bike share will solve it by getting those bikes in the street - Mom could have ridden a bike-share bike and I could have easily strapped her suitcase to my rear rack. I bet the pedicabs are going to HATE when those come out! They might actually find they have the time then to serve the rest of the city!

Dottie said...

Bummer. It sounded like a lovely plan! Sorry it did not work out.

I don't think my mom reads my blog, either. :)

MamaVee said...

That does suck. How many bike cab companies are there in Boston? I see a few but never was able to tell if it was the same group. I know once inthe south end a guy was hustling for rides and said " You don't have to pay me unless you enjoy it" I think that might be a different company?

I've been dying to take one too. Harumph that they didn't work for you.

Charlotte said...

MamaVee - that was the operation I called. I chose them because that's who we used last time and their base is very close to where I live (all the more reason to think I could get a ride!) I know there are at least two companies which I distinguish by the different styles of bike. These guys have an integrated seat section, the other guys have their seats more like trailers.

When I did get pedicabbing to work it was a lot of fun, just learn from my misconception and don't ever depend on them!

Filigree said...

That's unfortunate. But hopefully, as public demand for their services increases, their practices will change for the better.

Mr. Karate said...

don't lose hope! it's not the solution that's flawed, it's the pedicab's business model. these cabs work fine in other countries.

siobhan said...

Hello, I'm coming a bit late to the conversation, but here are my two cents worth. I drive a pedicab in another city (I'm not that familiar with Boston, though). Where I work give rides completely on tips, people will flag us down or call a dispatch number or a driver's cell (if they got it last ride and have built up a relationship). What some riders don't realize when they call, is that I'm not just around the corner. If there is a downtown event and I have to go 15-20 minutes to your location, give a 5 minute ride (after a 5 minute wait for them to come down from their condo) and then take another 15 minutes to get back where the action is... well, is that a 5 minute ride or an almost hour ride? Like I said we run on tips, I've lost a lot of time and potential rides. I'm not complaining, I love the job and the tips DO average out, I'm just trying to present the other side. Thanks

Charlotte said...

Hi siobhan,
I understand your position - that's why I tried to make my request at the most convenient time of the evening. Maybe it's the tips-based approach that ruin pedicabs as a real transportation option?

My point is only that at no time on the website or in conversations did they ever indicate that they might just refuse service completely. I was willing to have another beer, spend some more time at the harbor, wait 'till it was convenient, but no, they would not come down there that night, period.

The option to refuse a fare needs to be made clear when they're trying to drum up service, then my expectation would have been set.

I'm not arguing with the challenge of dealing in a tips-based market, I'm arguing with the statement of the representative who gave me the card "give us a call any time and we'll come over". Misleading and bad business. But once we have the bike share it's all going to change, so by the next time Mom visits this won't be an issue.