The Riding Reporter: A ride in a pedicab
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Interviewee: Sacsha Toda-Toda-Peters
Occupation: Tour guide
Riding style: Commuting, recreational, and pedicab-ing
His ride: Commercial passenger tricycle
Wearing a crisp white button-up shirt, a colorfully striped bow-tie, and over-sized non-prescription glasses, Sacsha Toda-Peters showed up in style to meet me for our ride.
"I don't sell rides, I sell smiles," he said and I was entertained before we even started the tour.
Toda-Peters is the owner of Greener Cab, a commercial passenger tricycle service that offers transport and unique tours of Seattle.
"If someone wants transportation, there are other options that may be quicker on average. But we're looking to provide a greater value and to be a great resource to the city," Toda-Peters said.
Toda-Peters bought his single-speed rickshaw almost three years ago off Craigslist.
"These trikes are actually manufactured this way. It's not a Franken-bike. This particular model is a Chinese model," Toda-Peters said, making himself comfortable on the rider's seat of a sturdy, pedal-powered tricycle with a cabin that can carry three people in addition to the driver.
"There was a whole year of me working on it before I ever felt that it was ready to go out. Mechanically, it could have gone out that first weekend but not only did I want it to be safe, I wanted it to appear safe and be visible," Toda-Peters said.
In addition to the bright green cabin and accents, the entire frame of his trike is wrapped in reflective tape. While it appears black, it turn a high visibility white when a light is shown on it at night.
Toda-Peters also added 20 LED light strips below the cabin.
Some of Toda-Peters' welding work includes an "oh Shucks! bar" and footsteps for his passengers.
Toda-Peters said he's not done with the trike yet and envisions a bike that offers a touch tablet, wi-fi, coffee cup holders and more.
Like his trike, his company is a working progress.
Currently, a tour guide for a downtown Seattle hostel, Toda-Peters' experiences vary from a corporate marketing job, to bar-tending and traveling the world as a professional photographer.
His rickshaw business was born out of his love for bicycling, seeing a need for a better pedicab industry, and giving back to the traveling community.
"I have been a bicycle commuter for years. I sold my car a little over three years ago and I have been the happiest I have ever been," Toda-Peters said. "...I also see this as a way to pay back to my travel community. Seattle has been my home and my love for a long time and I want to share that."
Toda-Peters said pedicabs are not only an environmentally-friendly way to travel through the city, it's also the safest.
"On average, pedestrian fatalities are double or even triple the amount of cyclist fatalities, which is pretty standard of any city as there are (on average) more people walking than biking," Toda-Peters said. "Cars are by far the worst."
But in the 49 years that rickshaws have been in Seattle, there has been only one fatality, he said, and that was in 2008.
"I don't know first hand what happened because I came into the industry after that happened but from the information I gathered of first hand accounts, it should never have happened for several different reason," Toda-Peters said.
In the 2008 incident a pedicab carrying a couple celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary collided with a minivan in downtown Seattle. The crash killed the husband and sent his wife and pedicab rider to the hospital.
"This incident could have been prevented with proper braking equipment along with proper training. It should never happen again because statistically, these are the safest way to travel in the State of Washington," Toda-Peters said.
"1962 was the first year pedicabs entered the City of Seattle," Toda-Peters recited. "We were the second city in North America, second only to Eugene. Oregon. During that period of time, we've had only one reported incident, which was that fatality. There may have been other incidents but they haven't been reported."
Toda-Peters said pedicabs have sometimes gotten a bad reputation due to a lack of standards and regulation, and the people that ride them.
A Seattle Pedicab Operaters Guild was founded in 2010 to try to come up with a standard of training, equipment. operators, and business practices.
As far as his own company goes, Toda-Peters said he wants to have the most stringent guidelines of any pedicab company out there.
Toda-Peters hires and trains new pedicab riders for his company ass well as his partner company, PEV CAB.
He said new riders have to pass a written test and listen to an hour-long instruction before any of them even get behind the wheel.
"There's a long list of requirements I have for new riders," Toda-Peters said.
Interestingly, being a cyclist is not one of them. In fact, Toda-Peters prefers to not hire hard-core cyclists
or "road warriors".
"The riders I hire and train are salespeople and tour guides, not bike riders," he said. "Everyone can pedal but the biggest hurdle in the training is steering. Every single person before training has hit [the trike] or crash it."
Toda-Peters said there are major differences between tricycles and bicycles. For one, a bicycle has two wheels and steering is done by banking - by leaning from side to side - while pedicabs can not bank at all.
"They stay stable and there's a lot of upper body required in fighting the trike's tendancy to go towards the lowest grade [of the road]," Toda-Peters said.
In addition to being human-powered, Toda-Peters' pedicab also has a 1000 watt, 48 volt electric motor.
"Some in our industry have called it cheating but for me, I'm not giving rides, I give tours. So for me to effectively give tours, I want to take people to the top of hills and to their doorstep, especially in the winter time," he said.
The motor has a maximum speed of 25 mph and also offers regenerative braking to go along with a drum brake system on the rear axel.
Equally as important to knowing how to operate the vehicle, is knowing the rules of the road.
"I feel strongly about sharing our roads, with cars and bicycles, "Toda-Peters said. "I want to pound it in that this is not our sidewalk, we are gracious guest." Common curtsy goes for both, the street and the sidewalk, Toda-Peters added.
That goes for both, the street and the sidewalk, Toda-Peters added.
"In the State of Washington it's legal for us to ride on the sidewalk as long as we follow the rules. We can't ride more than 3 mph faster than the average pedestrain walking speed - which is 7 mph - and pedestrians always have the right of way," he said. " We don't ever want to lose that because that would greatly affect how we can and do and would operate."
In addition to teaching his new riders how to operate a pedicab on Seattle streets, Toda-Peters stresses the importance of taking care of your body.
Toda-Peters said some riders use the pedicab industry as a free gym membership and a way to a healthier lifestyle.
After all, finding motivation to ride a bike is easier when you get paid for it.
Toda-Peters has yet to earn money with his business but his vision and dreams are big. He's been working on marketing opportunities and special events like an upcoming wedding for which a fleet of pedicabs will provide the transportation.
"I just got the 'Just Married' sign in this week," Toda-Peters said excitedly.
After our business talk, Toda-Peters transformed into his tour guide character and showed off his extensive knowledge of the city (did you know Kite Hill in Gas Works Park is man-made? I didn't either!).
He then allowed me to take his beloved pedicab for a spin around a parking lot. No, I did not hit anything nor crashed it but you won't see me riding around one of those any time soon either. It looks easier than it is.
To learn more about Greener Cab, visit GreenerCab.com
The Riding Reporter is a feature series in which BNT's bike-riding reporter, Anne-Marije Rook, takes interviewees on a short bike ride around town to talk bicycles, transit, and any other issue that may arise when seeing the city from a two-wheeled point of view. Previous interviewees include Mayor Mike McGinn, ultra-cyclist Chris Ragsdale, bike messenger world champion Craig Etheridge, Chuck Ayer from Cascade Bicycle Club, and more