Pedicabs Make a Comeback
Written By: Cheryl Scott
The most stylish way to get around these days is as old-fashioned as a walk in the park.The common denominator of every successful entrepreneur story is an idea whose time has come. When Jesus Chavez and partners Joseph Bradley and Dana Seagraves started the Long Beach Pedaler Society in October 2011, they felt confident that the time had come for an idea that is as old as the hills and as fresh as the ocean air.
Pedicabs have been a transportation staple in many countries for centuries, but here in the United States, the idea has never quite caught on — until lately. The Pedaler Society has become the ride of choice for visitors to Belmont Shore, especially in the evening hours when Second Street is in full swing.
According to local legend, the first Pedaler Society was started by a group of pioneers from Charleston who decided to leave town when South Carolina decided to leave the Union. Just as they were leaving, one of them found a crate abandoned in the street. It was marked Olivier Bros. Modele Un. When he and his partners opened the crate, they discovered a bicycle equipped with a carriage.
Although many in the original group were lost in the rough journey and even rougher life on the frontier, their offspring continued to search for a new home in the Wild West. They had heard of the formation of a small coastal town named Long Beach in Southern California. They headed straight to the town and found a bustling yet picturesque community. They decided to stay and make this place their home.
It is said that the three partners, after mastering the control and use of the Modele Un, agreed to start a business. The Long Beach Pedaler Society was born atop Signal Hill with a handshake a shout of “Let there be transport for all!”
Pedicabs made sense back then, especially in a city with a bustling downtown and a climate that lured people outdoors.
But in the interim, automobiles, taxis and even bicycles have come along. So where would the idea of pedicabs still have — er, traction? Belmont Shore, of course.
Chavez says the company now has 13 “Royals,” their name for the pedalists, and they are all kept busy on Second Street night and day.
“During the daytime we have a lot of people who just want to get a few blocks up the street,” he said. “The parking in the Shore is difficult and often the traffic is slow moving. A cruising pedicab is a good choice for them. All they have to do is flag us down. Or if they live in the Shore and just want to get out of the house and do some shopping, they can call us to pick them up.”
And when he says “us” he means it. He and both partners are all Royals, pedaling their fares with a bit of showmanship and a lot of personality.
“We hire people who know the city well and who enjoy talking to people,” Chavez said. “We want them to be able to talk about the city and point out different attractions as well as recommend places to shop and eat.”
When the group first posed their plan to the city, everyone involved in the permit process was supportive, even enthusiastic. “We worked with several different planners and others in the business license department, and they were terrific,” he said. “They helped us out in many ways. The idea was so new that it could have been difficult to obtain a license, but Long Beach was really helpful.”
Although other pedicab businesses have been tried, the Pedaler Society is the only one that has succeeded. The difference is that the company is community-based and is in it for the — well, long haul.
“We don’t want to ride on gimmickry for our success,” Chavez said. “We serve a useful purpose where it’s needed. We are basically a transportation company.”
The company has a solid business plan that includes promotional partnerships with community groups, event planners and local establishments. “Sometimes when there is a big event the organizers will hire us to display their advertisements while we go about our business of providing rides up and down Second Street,” he said. “We also have a cross promotional agreement with Legends and other clubs.”
And speaking of Belmont Shore watering holes and eateries, they provide the backdrop for a new phenomenon. Second Street, always lively in the evenings, has become the place to be after dark, rivaling Sunset Boulevard as the place to see and be seen by the younger set.
So think of it. Hundreds of well-heeled (sorry, can’t help it) young ladies in Jimmy Choos and other precarious footwear, provide a steady stream of customers for the most innovative form of transportation the city has seen in years. And all they have to do is use their cell phones to summon one.