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Motor City Pedicab on Monroe Street

Detroiters are in need of good, reliable ways to get around town. Grabbing a traditional cab can be hassle. An Uber might not be available, and the bus might take an hour or more to arrive. That’s where Motor City Pedicab (MCP) comes in.

Also known as a rickshaw, a pedicab is a tricycle with a two-seat passenger compartment. You’ll notice them on the street in the greater downtown area and assuming the ride isn’t too far, they’ll take you where you need to go on a comfortable, slower paced ride that will give you a chance to enjoy your surroundings. Motor City Pedicab, which has a fleet of four bikes, launched during Movement 2013. Typically you can find them near the action after a game, convention, or music festival.

During Movement 2014 they were doing a cross-promotion with “Detroit People Mover” gear. Advertising on the bikes is one way in which the MCP business model is similar to Cabrio Taxi, a pedicab company that has been a big success in San Francisco. Brian Studer founded MCP with business partners, Marshall Symons and Kyle Albery, who were familiar with Cabrio and thought that there was a big potential for pedicabs in Detroit because of its flat geography and relatively mild traffic. Additionally, Rickshaw Detroit, a solo project operated by Terry Walker, had already advocated for changes in Detroit that would allow for pedicabs to operate as a business in the city.

Motor City Pedicab

“We’re in the transportainment business. We don’t just transport people, we are offering an experience, and customer satisfaction is very important to us.” – Brian Studer

Over the last year MCP has been field testing different options for their business, including wintertime operation, but for now, they run from March through November. Motor City Pedicab also costs whatever you think it should. “We’re in the transportainment business,” said Studer, “We don’t just transport people, we are offering an experience, and customer satisfaction is very important to us.”

Studer calls it the “karma system” and when I asked him for an explanation, he said that leaving the pricing open to interpretation helps ensure that people are satisfied with the trip. Also pedicabs are relatively new to Detroit, so people aren’t quite sure what to expect. With some big tips for short rides to make up for lower paying customers, he says Detroiters are generous enough to keep the business profitable and he isn’t thinking about revising the policy. A more subtle reason for using the “karma system” is that MCP doesn’t want to be an exclusive service and he hopes that one day people will be taking pedicabs all over town for their day to day tasks.

Drivers with MCP keep everything they make, but pay to rent the bike which covers operating expenses and the bikes are specially made for the pedicab business in order to ensure customer safety. Drivers need to be in good physical condition because they average between 35 and 60 miles per shift with passengers in tow. In the future, MCP would like to have 20 bikes on constant rotation in the city.

If you’d like to charter a trip with MCP, you can get in touch with them through their website. Rates for a chartered ride or tour are typically $60 an hour. For organizations, they offer what is called a “Free Ride Campaign” where they can give free rides to anybody in the vicinity for a sponsorship fee. Quicken Loans currently sponsors a free ride campaign at Campus Martius on every 4th Friday of the month.

You will like Motor City Pedicab. They care about the impression that they are making on Detroiters and have found a niche for their service here. Next time you see someone pedaling a big tricycle, flag them down, hop in and take a look around your city. It’s another way that you will see Detroit getting slowly, incrementally, better.

All photos by Nick Hagen.